To say that LeGarrette Blount has made considerable progress in resurrecting his image would be understatement. The Bucs talented young running back is not without considerable baggage. Even before becoming infamous for leveling a Boise State player after a difficult loss on the Smurf Turf, Blount had other run-ins at Oregon that had given him a label as a trouble-maker.
It’s really not worth re-hashing all that happened that lead to LeGarrette Blount’s fall in the NFL draft. Enough was made of that already. But two things are worth noting from that incident. The first is that something really did seem to click with LeGarrette Blount after that incident. He recommitted himself to everything in his life, Oregon gave him a chance to continue pursuing his education and he took it. He continued to stay in peak shape, he worked tirelessly to help his teammates by running on the scout team all season and eventually worked his way back on to the field. Whereas before there were questions about his work ethic, those seemed to die on the night of the now famous punch.
The second thing worth noting is that even despite his struggles, Blount always found strength and support from the community in his hometown of Perry, Florida. On Tuesday those two things converged when LeGarrette Blount was recognized in his hometown. It was declared “LeGarrette Blount Day” and he was awarded the key to the city for “Winning the right way.” That’s a pretty big difference from where he stood a year ago today.
A year ago today Blount was unsure of his draft-stock, having missed the majority of his senior season for the Ducks. He would end up not getting drafted at all. He flirted with signing a rookie free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers before deciding instead to sign in Tennessee.
I don’t know whether the Titans wanted to develop Blount’s pass-pro and receiving skills more on the practice squad or just didn’t see his potential, but they waived him at the end of training camp and the Buccaneers welcomed him with open arms. At that point it would have been pretty easy for him to have had his doubts though. Having missed his senior year, not being drafted and then getting cut from his first team would have been a lot for any player.
But Blount persevered. He worked his way into the Bucs plans, then into their starting line-up before grinding out just over 1,000 yards to round out his rookie campaign. Even despite his success though, Blount will always have his doubters and critics. Mention his name and you’re libel to hear more than a few jokes about punching people. Still, people in his hometown know him and say that couldn’t be further from his true personality.
“When he returns he always comes by to see us, to offer support and encouragement to the kids, and I just think that’s part of his personality. I can’t imagine what happened that day,” said Debra Mash, an administrative assistant at Taylor County High. Janet Johnstono, in her 11th year in the school’s computer lab, added, “LeGarrette was always respectful when he was here, and honestly, I don’t think he realizes the potential that he has.”
It’s good to know that when Blount felt the most lost he had such a tremendous anchor in his hometown. One that he never took for granted, but almost tried to keep at arms length in one of his darkest hours. Understandable, but it’s nice to see a community offer so much support for a young man and they continued to do in honoring him on Tuesday.
“When I talked to LeGarrette (after the punch)… he told me that he didn’t want to come home,” Family friend Mark Southerland said.
“He knew if he did, he may never leave. He has proven himself to me and has changed my mind. I even told his mother that, honestly, I didn’t think he’d ever make it academically when he left Taylor County. I thought he’d flunk out and be home. I am proud of him, and many others are, too. I just want to let him know that we are thinking about him and a lot of people in town are keeping him in mind and in our prayers.”