Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon conquered every challenge he faced in high school. No matter the sport. No matter the position. And no matter what he was wearing.
Throughout his time at Plainview (Ardmore, Okla.), Blackmon starred on both sides of the ball in football, thrived in basketball, toyed with baseball and even won a state title in his only year on the track.
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“He could have been a star in every sport,” said Corey Cole, who coached Blackmon in football during his final two years of high school.
When Blackmon showed up to his first track practice as a senior, he was wearing Crocs. His coach, Johni Bell, still made him try out in the 400.
Despite his unconventional shoes, Blackmon managed to out-run everyone.
It was the same story in the high jump. While teammates would wear speed suits to minimize wind resistance, Blackmon would wear big basketball shorts.
“Justin was such an elite athlete that he never had to train at the high school level to be better than others,” Bell said.
Despite his odd practice habits, Blackmon won a state title in the long jump and finished second in the high jump – not bad for a guy competing in his first track season.
“If he would have been dedicated in track, there’s no telling what he could have done,” Bell said. “He just knew where he was headed — to play football.”
When Cole joined Plainview and first saw Blackmon during a spring workout, he was immediately impressed.
“He was an animal,” Cole said. “If his job was to block you, you were going to get knocked on your rear. No one could stop him. I’d never been around somebody like him.”
The greater the challenge, the better for Blackmon. After a summer workout of weights and conditioning, Cole remembers challenging Blackmon to run a sub-.50 400-meter sprint.
“We clocked him at 49.2,” Cole said. “It was amazing.”
That speed translated to a senior season in which Blackmon caught 61 passes for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Still, schools like Colorado were recruiting him to play cornerback. Some schools were even after him for basketball.
Finally, Oklahoma State came calling during Thanksgiving of his senior year. And the Cowboys wanted him to play receiver.
While Blackmon was more focused on playing in the state semifinals for the first time in team history at the time, the offer ended up changing his life.
Blackmon became a two-time All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver while at Oklahoma State. He finished his career with 253 receptions for 3,564 yards and 40 touchdowns.