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Rodrigo Blankenship gives Georgia football a better version of “Rudy”
ATHENS — Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has never seen the movie ‘Rudy’ in its entirety. He probably doesn’t need to actually watch the 1993 film gives a fictionalized version of the events surrounding Notre Dame walk-on Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger, given that Blankenship’s own journey as a walk-on makes for a much better story.
Blankenship came to Georgia as a walk-on as a member of the 2015 recruiting class. After redshirting his first year, Blankenship took over kicking duties four games into his second season in Athens. He connected on 14 of his 18 field goal attempts in 2016, including a game-winner against Kentucky. He quickly gained a cult following for the rec specs he wore during games.
But Blankenship wasn’t given a scholarship right away following that 2016 season. He still didn’t have one after Georgia’s season-opening win over Appalachian State. But the day before the Notre Dame game in 2017, Georgia coach Kirby Smart called Blankenship into his office. He was going to put him on scholarship, but Smart didn’t want Blankenship telling his teammates.
“He had earned it,” Smart told reporters this week. “And I thought it would be a tight ballgame and thought it might help his confidence knowing that he wasn’t having the pressure of a scholarship out there kicking.”
Blankenship admitted this week that not having that pressure did have its intended effect. In the game that followed, Blankenship hit two huge field goals, including a 30-yarder with less 3:34 remaining in the game. Those points proved to be the final three of the game and thus sent Georgia to a 20-19 victory.
“It was a really incredible moment and a really special game for me personally,” Blankenship said of the 2017 game. “That game really was a starting point for us that season that kicked us into high gear that season.”
Georgia went on to make the College Football Playoff that season, in large part because of that win over Notre Dame. In the two College Football Playoff games against Oklahoma and Alabama at the end of that season, Blankenship made multiple, clutch 50-yard field goals, further cementing his status as a Georgia legend.
Back to Rudy, the titular character’s teammates turned in their jerseys prior to the final game of the season against Georgia Tech as a way to allow Rudy to dress for the game. It turns out the emotional scene is a complete fabrication, as Dan Devine — the head coach at the time — and Joe Montana — a quarterback on the team — have both said.
Blankenship’s joyous moment actually did happen and when he announced it to the team following the 2017 win, the locker room erupted in a way that is usually saved for beating Florida.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 10, 2017
“Man, with the win and then Rod announcing his scholarship— the locker room was nothing but joy. We were all just so excited,” senior safety J.R. Reed said. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life.”
Since that game, Blankenship has gone on to become one of the top kickers in all of college football. As a junior, he made 19 out of his 23 field goals, while also booming 83 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks. As a redshirt freshman walk-on back in 2016, that number was 36 percent.
Smart told reporters earlier this season that they’ve actually asked Blankenship sometimes to not boot the ball for a touchback as a way to see how Georgia’s kickoff coverage would look.
“He’s been pretty consistent kicking them out of the end zone,” Smart said. “And he’s been consistently making the field goals and I think that’s a big part of what Rod’s game is, it’s just consistency and performance.”
Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Blankenship was named First Team All-SEC at kicker and he’s validated that lofty hype so far. He’s made all 5 of his field-goal attempts this season, and he’s pushed his extra-point streak to 176 consecutive made extra points, as he’s yet to miss on one in his college career.
Another fabrication in the film was that the stands were chanting Rudy’s name. As for Blankenship, when he is announced as a starter on Georgia’s video board he consistently gets the loudest cheer. The screams for Blankenship are louder than that for Jake Fromm or running back D’Andre Swift.
Blankenship claims he doesn’t hear or pay attention to the pregame chants, but he’s clearly one of the most beloved — and iconic — Georgia players in recent memory.
“I think they love him because he’s a Dawg through and through,” Smart said. He’s got a great personality. He loves Georgia. He sells Georgia. He’s a tremendous asset for us, but I love the kid as a person because of everything he’s persevered and been through.”
Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship discusses Notre Dame game
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Dawgs on Twitter
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 18, 2019
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) September 17, 2019
How high will ND/UGA tickets go?? pic.twitter.com/sTjufwMH33
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) September 17, 2019
Our @tacobell Live Mas Student Section of the Week goes to @GeorgiaFootball fans! The pink out was one of the classiest, most touching gestures I’ve seen all season and it did not go unnoticed by our committee. Some things are bigger than football and @UGASPIKESQUAD gets it💕 pic.twitter.com/FjNzioCaA0
— Molly McGrath (@MollyAMcGrath) September 17, 2019
Good Dawg of the Day
This is Apollo. He likes to point at those with beautiful smiles who are going to have a great day today. 13/10 pic.twitter.com/oCdx6Rn3PQ
— WeRateDogs™ (@dog_rates) September 16, 2019