Justin Blackmon maintains that he doesn't have a problem with alcohol or drugs despite two DUI arrests and a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Longtime friends and Blackmon's former coaches still support the Jacksonville Jaguars ultra-talented wide receiver.
“Justin doesn't think he has a problem,” said Putnam North basketball coach Rick Harris, Blackmon's hoops coach at Plainview. “Maybe there's a whole other side of him I'm unaware of. Maybe I'm naïve.
“I know Justin genuinely cares about other people. I know Justin honors his mother and father and wants to do the right thing. Knowing him like I do, these isolated instances aren't the Justin I know.”
Blackmon's troubles earned him a four-game suspension to start this season. Blackmon, though, has reminded everyone the past two Sundays why he was a two-time Biletnikoff winner at OSU.
Last week, Blackmon and the downtrodden Jaguars, a 27-point underdog, trailed the Broncos 21-19 midway through the third quarter. Denver pulled away, but Jacksonville, for a change, was competitive.
Blackmon hauled in 14 catches for 190 yards. He exploited Denver's defense even when the Broncos double-teamed him.
But the underlying story is that the Plainview High School product is also one substance-abuse violation away from being suspended for an entire season.
Blackmon's attorney, Cheryl Ramsey, said Blackmon underwent a DUI assessment earlier this year in Florida, administered by a psychologist. No alcohol treatment was recommended.
“Justin hasn't made it easy for himself, but I think he's stronger for having gone through this,” said Garrett Moore, a former Plainview teammate. “This isn't his normal character. It doesn't change who he is as a person or a competitor.”
Jarrod Fields is living with Blackmon in Jacksonville. They've been friends since their Ardmore days. They grew up together at Corinth Baptist Church. Blackmon played for Plainview, while Fields played at nearby Ardmore High. Fields walked on at OSU.
“This bold but humble man has shown me so much about his character,” Fields said. “I get to see all the things he does when the cameras aren't rolling.”
While serving his suspension, Blackmon was prohibited from speaking with the media. He's conducted a couple interviews since he rejoined the team, but his responses have been brief.
“I'm probably more excited than anybody,” Blackmon said. “I'm just ready to go play.”
Out of character
Blackmon lived with Moore's family for his and Moore's senior year after Michelin transferred Justin's father, Warren, to South Carolina. Blackmon's parents have since moved back to Ardmore.
“I didn't move to Plainview until eighth grade,” Moore said. “We've been really close friends for nearly 10 years, but a lot of people think we've been friends forever.”
Before he made his pro debut, Blackmon got a misdemeanor DUI in Dallas while at OSU when he and some buddies drove down for a Dallas Cowboys game. Blackmon reportedly got behind the wheel because he was the least inebriated.
“He felt he could drive that night. He made a bad decision,” Moore said. “He's definitely a stand-up guy. These two incidents are not his normal character.”
Harris is convinced Blackmon never ran with the party crowd.
“You'd hear about the kids that went out to have a good time, but I never heard of Justin's name in the middle of it,” Harris said. “When that incident happened in Dallas, I thought it was an anomaly.
“With me he was, ‘Yes sir, no sir,' a great example for his teammates. He was great working with kids. He didn't have a huge ego. Some people in the NFL see him as some sort of misfit. I'm in the other camp. He's obviously made some mistakes, but I believe Justin will overcome all of this.”
There were no extenuating circumstances surrounding Blackmon's second arrest in June 2012, when police reports revealed he tested three times over the legal limit for alcohol. Blackmon said he made a mistake, had no excuse for his actions and said he was truly sorry to put the Jaguars organization in a negative light.
“I think it really hurt him to know the consequences from his decisions,” Harris said. “I think he kicks himself in the rear a lot for what happened. I feel he's frustrated, embarrassed. I think it really bothered him.”
Blackmon's unique personality
Johni Bell first met Blackmon when she taught freshmen English at Plainview. The former Plainview athletic director later coached Blackmon in track. She said Blackmon frequently offered comments from his desk but wasn't comfortable standing in front of the class.
“He enjoyed being the center of attention while not being the center of attention if that makes any sense,” Bell said. “He didn't like it when all the attention was focused on him and only him.”
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