EDITOR’S NOTE: This original Rodrigo Blankenship story continues a special series in partnership with Georgia Farm Bureau profiling homegrown talent from the state of Georgia. To access the other HomeGrown Talent articles please visit the series hub on DawgNation.com.
DawgNation loves them some Rodrigo Blankenship. He just might be the most popular player on the team.
A truly unscientific poll lends credence to that theory. It might be a shock to those who only consume their Georgia football gamedays over the airwaves, but the Sanford Stadium crowd adores all things “Hot Rod.”
The Sprayberry High (Marietta, Ga.) alum generates the loudest decibels every Saturday. That happens each home game when the starters are introduced. It dates back to at least the start of the 2018 season.
Does it catch him off-guard? Make him smile?
“Not really,” he said earlier this year. “I’m getting my last few warm-up kicks on the sideline and I’m trying to focus on that. Just kind of block everything else out.”
That love was still there for the pregame against Kentucky. That was the week after he missed a crucial kick in the second overtime against South Carolina.
It stands as Georgia’s only loss of the year. Blankenship didn’t lose many decibels off that pregame ovation.
When a player has done what Blankenship has for Georgia, it makes sense.
Blankenship got a big hug and slap on the helmet and back from Kirby Smart at the end of the South Carolina game. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)
Rodrigo Blankenship: The “Hot Rod” stat parade
There’s a reverence around Dooley Field for the fifth-year Bulldog. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound graduate student has made 184 of his 184 extra points at Georgia.
He has drilled 65 of his 78 field-goal tries. That is good for a field goal percentage of 83.3 percent. That currently stands as the all-time best accuracy rate for a UGA kicker.
Those feats have generated 379 career points and the total sits fourth all-time in Georgia history behind Blair Walsh, Billy Bennett and Marshall Morgan.
“Hot Rod” also stands third in SEC history in career field goal percentage and 12th in career field goals.
Opponents have returned just six of his 46 kickoffs this fall. That includes 33 touchbacks.
The hits on his stat parade just keep coming:
- He made four field goals back in 2016 against Kentucky.
- Blankenship matched that against Missouri in 2017.
- The Marietta native has made 53 and 55-yard field goals for the Bulldogs.
- There was also his streak of 14 straight field goals last fall. It was part of a year in which he saw 82 of his 97 kickoffs land for touchbacks.
It strains the brain a bit to recall that kickoffs were a part of his game that didn’t come naturally. He had to work on those at UGA, much like he still grinds away at every part of his game.
He came to Georgia as a walk-on. Spurning a scholarship to Florida of all places to do so.
When he arrived, former coach Mark Richt told him he’d spend a year on campus without a scholarship and go on grant-in-aid after Morgan’s eligibility ran out in 2015. When Mark Richt left, that promise went with him.
Blankenship had to earn his offer to kick for the Bulldogs twice. He certainly has done that and then some.
Spurned Florida. Worked for what he has. Underdog. Clutch. Fan fave. The specs. The nickname. The walk-on tells the team he got put on scholarship after his clutch kick at Notre Dame. The Rose Bowl. #RespecttheSpecs