RACINE, Ohio — Jaylen Blanks is bound and determined, going forward, to remain healthy.
And, he will have that opportunity to achieve that — at the next level.
That’s because Blanks, of Southern High School, has announced his intention to play college football for the Hocking College Hawks in Nelsonville.
Hocking College is a Junior College program, and a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
The upcoming campaign will be the Hawks’ third.
“I’ve always been wanting to play college football. Hocking (College) is close and I have family there. This is a dream come true for me,” said Blanks.
At Southern, when healthy, Blanks was a standout running back, defensive back and wide receiver — and was a solid special teams player as a kick and punt return man.
He played for the better part of three seasons at Southern, and earned all-Southeast District Division VII Special Mention as a sophomore.
However, his Tornado career — unfortunately — was impacted heavily by injuries.
A broken ankle in the first quarter of the first game of his junior season sidelined him then, and he missed the middle of his senior season with injuries and a concussion.
” Freshman year, I played special teams. Sophomore year, I come in and start at tailback and played a lot. Junior year, I broke my ankle on my first punt return in the first game of the season. So I missed a whole season of football. Senior year, I battled injuries and a concussion, but I came back at the end of the year and I’m ready,” said Blanks.
Blanks briefly discussed his health — when asked about it on Saturday at Adams Memorial Field in Racine.
“My health is better. I’ve been lifting a lot and working harder so I don’t get hurt,” he said.
When Blanks was healthy, he was a key contributor to the Tornadoes’ teams in 2013 and 2016 —which went 8-2 in the regular season and are the only Southern squads in school history to qualify for the state playoffs.
“It felt awesome. It felt good to be a part of the first team in Southern history to make the playoffs, but it also felt better to be the second team my senior year. It’s just like a repeat,” said Blanks.
Mike Chancey coached last year’s club, so he had the “pleasure” of coaching Blanks for one season.
“First and foremost, I am happy for him and the opportunity he has to not only further his playing career, but also get an education. Jaylen is a good young man who did everything we asked him to do this year. He was a pleasure to coach. He was bitten a bit by the injury bug throughout his career here, but I think he is a special football player,” said Chancey. “I am excited that he still wants to play football, and I think he can definitely contribute at Hocking College. When Jaylen was healthy, I felt he was one of the best players in our league (Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division). He made a lot of plays here, both this past year and as I’ve seen him on film from previous years.”
Blanks said he would like to continue to play the all-purpose positions for the Hawks.
Hocking College is coached by Adolphus Matthews.
Blanks said he plans to study to become a Physical Therapist Assistant.
That too, along with his determination to remain healthy, has him having an opportunity to play college football.
“I need to work on working harder, not giving up on myself or cutting myself short and applying how I know,” said Blanks.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106