“Everybody thinks I am but I said I’m not gonna cry,” said Blount, father of UGA signee Trey Blount, nervously laughing about that fast-approaching day. “It’ll be a little bit nostalgic for sure when I come home and it’s an empty house. But I’m not going to cry. My best friend keeps saying, ‘yeah, yeah, you’re going to boohoo.’ I’m like, ‘no I’m not.’”
Odds are pretty strong that tears will be flowing that day in early June. Obviously all fathers love their sons and are emotional when they leave home. But the bond between Trey Blount and his father is indeed a special one. It has been forged in the fires of divorce and separation, and it has grown through the process of perseverance and maturity.
But whatever temporary pain there might be from being apart will be quickly eased with a sense of accomplishment. Blount, a senior at Atlanta’s Pace Academy, is a 4-star wide receiver who has signed a college scholarship to play football for the Georgia Bulldogs. He’ll arrive on campus with the rest of the incoming freshmen on June 1.
That Blount will be in that group has a lot to do with the sacrifices made by his father.
“It’s been a blessing, really a dream come true,” Trey told DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell.
BECOMING ‘MR. MOM’
To understand the relationship between Trey Blount and his father, one must first know a little something about their family’s history. Blount had just finished the fifth grade when his father and mother, Mavis Blount, decided they could no longer co-exist.
Cecil Blount and his son Trey pose on the sideline at Sanford Stadium during a visit to Athens last fall. FAMILY PHOTO
Eventually that decision came down to an even tougher one. His mother decided she needed to return to her hometown of Dallas, Texas. That decision meant that Blount’s much younger brother, Jared, would be going with her.
Trey could have gone to Texas with his mother, too. But he chose to remain with his father in Atlanta and the life he already knew.
“We tried to work it out but we couldn’t,” Cecil Blount said of his marriage to Mavis. “She’s from Dallas and she decided to move back home. So before the divorce was final, we separated and she moved back. Trey stayed with me. He said, ‘Dad, I don’t know Dallas. I want to stay here. I want to stay with you.’ I said, ‘that’s fine,’ and that’s what we did.”
Trey’s little brother, Jared, was just 3 years old at the time. It made sense that he should go with his mother.
“That was real tough, though, because our family broke up,” Cecil Blount said. “I knew then, ‘I’ve gotta be there for Trey.’ He was 11 years old and I knew it was going to be tough on him. So I made up my mind then I was going to be there for him. Always.”
And Cecil has been there every step of the way.
He did that first by trying to maintain “a sense of normalcy” for his eldest son. Even though it was entirely too large for just the two of them and expensive to upkeep, they remained in the house they built years before in Powder Springs. It was important at that stage that Trey remain in that school system and that their routine stay the same.
Meanwhile, he had figure out how to do a lot of new things himself.
“I had to learn how to cook,” Blount’s father said. “My wife used to do all that, you know, but I had to figure that out. Because Trey was 11, and he was looking at me like, ‘I don’t care where it comes from but I need to eat.’ So I basically became mom and dad.”
It certainly was challenging at times. Truthfully, it was challenging most of the time.
Cecil works in the processing center of the U.S. Post Office’s massive facility on Crown Road in Southeast Atlanta. So he had to go to work every day. Meanwhile, he had to get Trey back-and-forth to school and to his many practices in various sports.
It had been evident for a long time that Trey was an exceptional athlete and could have a sustained future in a number of sports. So Cecil worked tirelessly to get him enrolled in camps and get him special training when and where he could find it.
It also meant that Cecil’s lovelife became a secondary consideration.
“I had to put everything in my life on hold, basically, to make sure he was taken care of, that his well-being came first,” Cecil said. “Once we divorced, I didn’t care about dating anybody. I was focused on Trey. I knew I needed to be there for him every step of the way.”
OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME
Trey Blount’s athleticism comes to him naturally. His father played quarterback at Jacksonville State, but it goes back even further than that. Cecil Blount, Sr. – Trey is a nickname as his given name is Joseph Cecil Blount III – was a star running back at the old Lemon Street High School in Marietta.
“My dad, back when schools were segregated, was a very good football player,” Cecil Blount said. “He was one of the best running backs to come through Georgia at that time. He played for the Lemon Street Hornets. Everybody used to tell me about how great he was in high school. Of course, I never saw him play. But one time I went to the library and looked up some articles on microfiche and it was there. So he comes from a pretty good bloodline.”
It was evident early on that Trey was going to carry on the family tradition. Cecil tells the story of his son being 4 years old and playing baseball for one of the first times in his life in Texas. Somebody fouled off a ball and it flew over the bordering fence.
Trey Blount and his father pose after he signed with the Georgia Bulldogs during a signing day ceremony at the College Football Hall of Fame. FAMILY PHOTO
“Next thing I know, he bunny hopped the fence,” Cecil says, laughing hard at the memory. “At 4. He just bounded over it. His grandad looked at me and said, ‘Did you see that?’ I said ‘yeah, man.’ The kid was 4. I knew then he was athletic. I didn’t know how good, but I knew then I had to work with him.”
Trey excelled at baseball for years – “he could hit a baseball as far as you could imagine” – and basketball and track. But football was always his first love. And physically, the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder checked all the boxes for being an exceptional player in that sport.
That was evident when his high school football career at Hillgrove. However, Cecil didn’t believe his son was commanding the attention he deserved, either from colleges or from a play-calling standpoint. So he decided to look into the possibility of transferring after Trey’s sophomore year.
Through what Cecil now believes to be an act of providence, Trey ended up at prestigious Pace Academy in Northwest Atlanta. It is one of Atlanta’s most exclusive private schools.
“I actually recruited Pace,” Cecil Blount said. “After his 10th-grade year, I just kind of wasn’t feeling Hillgrove; I didn’t think they were using him correctly. Now I’m not that overbearing dad that’s always in the coach’s ear. I’m not that guy. But I am the type that will say, ‘give my son an opportunity.’ And I just didn’t see him getting that at Hillgrove.”
Blount said he simply started researching schools online and trying to find one that might create some favorable circumstances for Trey.
“I came across Pace and I was like, ‘wow, what a great school!’” Cecil recounts. “So I contacted Coach (Chris) Slade; I emailed him. He emailed me back and that’s how we got the ball rolling.”
However, that opportunity created more sacrifices. First, Trey would have to qualify academically. He had good grades at Hillgrove, but would need to pass an entrance exam at Pace, which he did.
It also meant selling the family house they’d built and lived in all those years in Powder Springs, and moving to Fulton County. Everything about life since then has been more expensive.
“We live in a townhome in Buckhead now,” Cecil said. “We don’t have as much space. A lot of our stuff is in storage. But when we decided to go to Pace, I had to make a bona fide move. I had to move into the county. So I actually had to sell my home and get a townhouse. I couldn’t afford to pay for both, so we did that.
“As far as sacrifice, though, I didn’t mind, because I knew it was going to help him.”
THE KID CAN PLAY
And help him it has. Not only did Blount put himself into position to become a blue-chip recruit, which was one of the family’s goals, but he also helped Pace achieve unprecedented success on the football field. The Blue Knights went 13-2 and won the first state title in football in school history when they beat Fitzgerald to win the Class AA state title in 2015, Blount’s first season with the team.
Pace — which also features Georgia offensive tackle signee Andrew Thomas and 2018 offensive line recruit Jamaree Salyer — made the playoffs again this past season but was bounced in the first round by Greater Atlanta Christian.
Blount is a big physical receiver who averaged 19.2 yards per catch while playing in a run-oriented, pro-style offense. JEFF SENTELL / DAWGNATION
While the offense was not built around Blount, he was a big part of Pace’s success. Not only did he catches passes as a wide receiver, he also returned kicks and blocked on the perimeter for one of the state’s most formidable rushing attacks. Blount also excelled on the defensive side of the ball as a defensive end and defensive back for the Knights.
“There aren’t many high school kids that can stop a kid on the edge that runs a 4.4,” said Keith Johnson, Pace’s offensive coordinator and line coach. “He’s 6-2 or 6-3, long, 200 pounds. We didn’t throw the ball a lot, but Trey was a weapon for us. We threw more his junior year. He did a good job for us. He played wherever we needed him to play.”
Playing in an I-formation, pro-style offense, Blount averaged 19.2 yards per catch last season and finished with 403 yards receiving. He caught 36 passes for 642 yards his junior season. He also ran the ball often on reverses and het sweeps.
That production and his performances in camps helped Blount earn a consensus 4-star rating from all the recruiting services. Rivals.com rated him as the No. 27 wide receiver prospect in the country.
Blount ended up with more than two dozen major-college scholarship offers. His first offer was from Alabama and South Carolina made a hard run at him, too. But he chose the Bulldogs early, committing in April of 2016.
That early decision has resulted in Blount kind of fading in the consciousness of recruiting analysts and the Georgia fan base with regard to the Bulldogs’ ballyhooed 2017 class. But he plays a position of need for UGa. He’s one of four wide receivers the school inked and could make a major impact.
To no one’s surprise, Dad believes his son will.
“I listen to them on the radio and nobody’s talking about him,” Cecil said. “I listen to 680 (The Fan) all the time. One day my buddy called me, and he’s a big Georgia supporter, and he says, ‘they were talking about receivers and they talked about every receiver but Trey.’ I said, ‘it’s all right. It’s OK. Trey will let his play do his talking.’ That’s what he’s always done.”
PLAYING FOR A CAUSE
Certainly a lot of good things have happened for Trey Blount since his parents made the decision to split seven years ago. But it hasn’t been easy. The most difficult part for him has been growing up apart from his little brother. Jared Blount is now 10 years old and continues to live with his mother in Dallas.
Trey Blount poses with his little brother Jared in front of Disney World on a family trip last July. The siblings live in different states. FAMILY PHOTO
But that hasn’t prevented the brothers from being close. Jared comes to Atlanta to stay with his father at least twice year and often spends most of his summers here. Meanwhile, the two siblings talk and text on the phone daily.
“Now that there’s FaceTime he can see him and talk with him pretty much every day,” Cecil said of his two sons. “They argue all the time, just like all brothers. Jared tells him he’s faster than him, that he’s bigger and stronger. They’ll pick at each other on the phone.”
When Trey was 13, he took an AAU basketball trip to Orlando. There in a gift shop, he found a place that sold customized “dog-tag” necklaces like the ones soldiers wear in the military. That’s when he came up with an idea.
He had one made in his brother’s honor. It reads: “Jared C. Blount, 12-19-06 (his birthdate). I miss you. God bless.”
“I haven’t taken it off since,” Trey says. “I wear it all the time. In the shower, everywhere.”
Blount shows off the ever-present dog tag he wears in honor of his younger brother Jared, who lives in Texas. DAWGNATION
Trey also does something more subtle to honor his little brother that a lot of people don’t notice unless they’re looking for it. Whenever he scores a touchdown, he kneels in the end zone and traces the letter ‘J’ across his heart.
“That’s my little dude,” he said. “I do all this for him.”
It runs in the family as Cecil has always done everything for Trey. But now, that responsibility is about to come to an end.
But these are happy times. Cecil, after years of toiling as a single, working father, has finally found a little time for himself. Last summer, he rediscovered a childhood friend on Facebook. He and Derinda Cook have been dating since August and are contemplating marriage.
“She’s wonderful,” Cecil Blount said. “She understands my situation with Trey. She knows I need to be there for him and she has no problem with it. That’s when you know you’re dating the right person. And obviously she knows he’s going to college. She went to every Georgia game with us last year and she’ll be with me when I go this year.”
The dynamic, however, will be decidedly different with Trey Blount on the field and not in the stands with the rest of the recruits. But thanks to decisions made years ago, Cecil Blount believes his son is prepared for the challenges that await him.
Not only to he receive exceptional football training at Pace, but Trey also made friends with many influential Atlantans. He attends school with the children of Arthur Blank and the Woodruff family and made a trip last spring to New York with the Steve Rayman family to see the play “Hamilton” on Broadway.
Regardless of what happens in football, Cecil Blount believes his son, with his experiences at Pace and a degree from UGA, will be set up for success.
As for father and son, no space or time can get in between that.
“Our bond will always be there,” Cecil Blount said. “It’s getting close. We spend a lot of time together. … He likes to go places and do things, but he’s pretty much a homebody. During the week he has school and is working out. But as it gets closer, we’re starting to feel that little bit of tug. It’ll be here before you know it.”
And you can bet tears will be falling then.