Auburn, Ala.—It’s 870 miles from Red Lion Christian Academy in Delaware to Auburn, but in the world of college football in the Deep South it may as well have been a lifetime away. All that changed this past recruiting season when big defensive tackle Angelo Blackson chose to play for the Auburn Tigers and take his talents to the Plains.
At 6-5, 326 pounds, Blackson was a standout basketball player early in his high school career and actually got an offer from Syracuse, but he quickly grew to love the game of football and grew in size to make the gridiron his obvious choice for the future.
Blackson is shown in a drill at Thursday evening's practice.
While he had many of options, in the end Blackson chose Auburn and quickly began to work to get ready for the heat and humidity that was coming his way. Running as much as possible, he said his coaches gave him an idea of what to expect and for the most part he feels like has handled the heat well.
"My high-school coach, we'd be running in practice and I'd be breathing hard,” Blackson said. “He'd say: 'Son, you know where you're about to go?' That was really the motivation, the push. I tried to run in the heat. I wanted to come into the heat to play.”
Blackson is getting that opportunity now with temperatures in the 90’s and a heat index hovering around triple digits.
“The first two days were great,” Blackson said of his opening college practices. “Making the transition from high school football to college football is definitely an experience. Everyone is the same size. Everyone is just as fast, just as strong as you.
"I just come out working my hardest and trying to be the best I can be," he said. "Coming in as a freshman, you kind of sit back from the older guys, but you can still make your chance at the college level. That's what I'm trying to do.”
Angelo Blackson is one of the largest defensive linemen the Tigers have signed in recent years.
The first order of business for Blackson is trying to make the move from a lower level of high school football to the SEC. Making it even tougher is that Blackson played some middle linebacker and defensive end as well as tackle in high school. That means more learning to do before he’s ready to take a step forward.
“Coach (Mike) Pelton is a great coach,” Blackson said. “He really breaks it down to you with
the hand movements and where you're supposed to be and what you're supposed to read. He makes it easier. Staying after practice is a good thing, working your hands and learning to read. It's a technical game at the college level. That's the emphasis here.”
Blackson admits however that there is more to playing football in the SEC than just learning what to do and his assignments.
“There were a few people in high school with size and great talent,” Blackson said. “High school is high school. The one with the biggest heart wins. Here, everybody has the same heart you've got. Everybody wants to be first. Everybody wants to play.
"It's a real technical game when you get to the college level. Everyone can bench 300 pounds and everyone can squat 500 pounds. It's
about who can learn the play and get the techniques down. That's what I try to do--focus in on my plays and the coaching.”
Even though he’s just two days into his Auburn career the time is already now for Blackson and fellow freshmen Gabe Wright and Jabrian Niles. With three players gone off last year’s team, including NFL draft picks Nick Fairley and Zach Clayton, and Derrick Lykes no longer with the Tigers after being dismissed from the team there is plenty of opportunity for early playing time.
Blackson said for him his immediate focus is not about earning playing time, it’s about becoming a better player.
“I'm coming in and working, taking it a day at a time,” he said. “I'm trying to work in with the college setting. It's different. I want to get stronger, faster. I want to get my alignments right so I can hopefully have that chance to play. That's what I'm working for – to start.”
Premium Subscription Signup
Order Your 2011 Auburn Tigers Football Guide.