STILLWATER — Last spring, Justin Blackmon was just another receiver looking to make a name for himself at Oklahoma State.
When spring football drills started Monday, Blackmon stepped on the practice field as the 2010 Biletnikoff Award winner.
Yet, nothing has changed for Blackmon. The hunger to be great remains. The will to be unstoppable still drives the Ardmore native.
“I have the same mindset,” Blackmon said. “It's a little bit different this year. People know the name, but it's going to be the same way.”
The junior-to-be passed on the chance at NFL millions to return to Stillwater to get better and help the Cowboys compete for a Big 12 championship.
“He's an impressive guy because he knows how to compete,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “He is a big powerful man with strong hands that is really good after the catch.”
Blackmon finished the season with 111 receptions for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. He set an NCAA record with 12 straight games with 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown.
Eye-popping numbers, sure.
But how could he possibly be better than that?
“He went from playing a little bit to the Biletnikoff winner,” Monken said. “And he did it being a big, powerful man with strong hands. Now, where he can really change himself is his route running.”
Monken would know.
The Pokes' new offensive coordinator came to OSU after spending the 2010 season as the receivers coach for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, where receivers Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas and Mercedes Lewis accounted for over 2,000 receiving yards last season.
So Blackmon's focus this spring will be to become a better route runner, work on the little things that could become the difference between being a good or great receiver at the next level.
“I've been working on catching the ball in air and route running,” he said. “Just all around improving my game.”
Blackmon's 2010 production was a result of unique competitiveness combined with great physical skills. He excelled thanks to his physical talents more than his technique or his attention to detail as he ran routes during his breakout season.
In other words, Justin Blackmon was a great playmaker and great receiver in 2010. This season, he's looking to become a great playmaker, great receiver and great route runner.
And in doing so, he could help eliminate any questions from NFL scouts regarding his ability once he begins playing on Sundays.
“He needs to be more precise,” Monken said. “Bend in and out of cuts and separate. And he knows that.
“He can become so much better as a route runner.”