INDIANAPOLIS — The drive was alleged to proceed on to the Indianapolis airport to catch the workforce aircraft. However Indianapolis Colts rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship wished to make a cease first.
It wasn’t to seize a salad or some form of natural smoothie to carry aboard the fast flight to Nashville, the place the Colts had been to play the Tennessee Titans.
Blankenship stopped at a neighborhood Goal. To purchase some Legos.
“I don’t learn about too many different soccer gamers who’d simply come out and willingly say this,” Blankenship mentioned. “Now, possibly some do, however they simply don’t wanna speak about it.”
In a time when most 23-year-old skilled athletes are utilizing their spending cash to purchase the most recent online game, a big-screen tv or the most recent sneakers, Blankenship enjoys difficult himself to construct Lego units.
That’s Blankenship’s method of diffusing any strain of changing arguably the best kicker in NFL historical past, Adam Vinatieri, and to go the time whereas being restricted on what he can do across the Indianapolis space due to COVID-19.
“You assume as a child it might be so cool to enter that factor — whether or not it is a spaceship or a kind of a automotive — or to have the ability to see that factor, even when it’s not actual,” Blankenship mentioned about his Lego creations. “That sticks with you. Once you’re older, you continue to have that spark of your internal youngster that has an affinity for these issues, so that you’re like, ‘Oh man, I may have that.’
“One of many different issues is, they’re a problem. There are some units which can be slightly simpler to place collectively, however the greater units which have 1,000 or 2,000 items are a enjoyable problem to place collectively. They’ve attention-grabbing strategies to try to re-create these issues.”
That’s Blankenship’s quirky aspect — a life that additionally contains sporting his trademark Rec Specs goggles throughout video games as a result of contacts irritate his eyes. It contains attending the seventieth celebration for legendary professional wrestler Ric Aptitude, his buddy and a College of Georgia fan. That is the identical Ric Aptitude who’s a “styling and profiling, limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheeling ‘n’ dealing son of a gun.”
So Blankenship likes events, however there’s nonetheless that internal youngster in him. When he was discovering out whether or not he’d gained the job over Chase McLaughlin in camp, he wasn’t pacing at his place worrying. He was constructing one other Lego set.
With Blankenship, assume half Pat McAfee and half toy geek.
“My preliminary response was that he’s positively into some various things,” Colts special-teams coach Bubba Ventrone mentioned. “However regardless what he’s into, so long as he makes his kicks, I don’t care what number of Legos he builds.”
Blankenship is 24-of-27 on discipline objectives and 30-of-32 on further factors this season. He made 4 discipline objectives towards the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, changing into the primary Colts rookie to make 4 in a sport since Mike Vanderjagt in December 1998. Blankenship made his first game-winning kick when he nailed a 39-yard discipline objective in extra time towards Inexperienced Bay, bouncing again after lacking a 50-yard try earlier within the sport.
The within of Ken and Izabel Blankenship’s home in Marietta, Georgia, is one thing like a toy museum due to Rodrigo, the youngest of their 4 youngsters.
Greater than 100 Transformers. “A whole lot and a whole lot and a whole lot and a whole lot” of Scorching Wheels, based on Ken Blankenship. Hundreds of Pokemon playing cards. Greater than 1,500 World Battle II tanks and metallic troopers.
Blankenship collected these issues through the years, asking his mother and father if he may go to the toy aisle every time they went to the shop and ordering them on eBay as he received older. Legos grew to become a part of the enjoyable at round age 10.
“He was a natural-born collector,” Ken Blankenship mentioned. “I’d say 95% of every little thing he’s collected is in our home nonetheless. Our home must lose some weight in some unspecified time in the future. Hopefully it’ll find yourself in his man cave one among as of late.”
Blankenship’s youth wasn’t all about toys. He performed sports activities, too.
His old flame was soccer, which often is the case with soccer kickers. Ken Blankenship, a longtime educator, coached membership soccer and his son began taking part in the game “as quickly as I may stroll.”
The Blankenships would take journeys again to Izabel’s residence nation of Brazil, the place Rodrigo would take part in camps. He typically towered over youngsters the identical age as him, and his highly effective proper foot struck worry in his opponents when it got here to attempting to dam one among his kicks.
“American soccer was by no means a part of the dialog from when he was about 5 or 6 years outdated up till he was 10 as a result of he was creating not solely within the U.S., but additionally in Brazil in soccer,” Ken Blankenship mentioned. “The trail athletically for him was going to be soccer. He fell into American soccer by chance. He had a flair for kicking footballs when he began.”
Blankenship’s first expertise with kicking a soccer got here in fourth grade, because the ball flew “naturally off his foot,” his father mentioned. Rodrigo attended the primary of round 60 camps throughout center college, when he was routinely one of many youngest there, amongst principally highschool athletes.
Blankenship put an emphasis on soccer as he received older at school as a result of he realized it doubtless could be simpler to get a scholarship in that sport than in soccer, although he performed each sports activities in highschool.
Making the transition to soccer wasn’t simple as a result of Rodrigo was so gifted in soccer and the household had put 1000’s and 1000’s of miles on their vehicles driving him to and from practices and video games through the years.
“I’ve been across the sport for a protracted, very long time and he’s the second-best highschool participant I’ve seen, and I’m not saying that as a dad, I’m saying it as a soccer coach,” Ken Blankenship mentioned. “However getting a full scholarship in soccer isn’t all the time simple. Colleges like to provide partial scholarships. We weren’t flooded with being profitable from our jobs in our home.”
Blankenship, a most well-liked walk-on at Georgia, gained the kicking job throughout his redshirt freshman season. Coach Kirby Sensible may have stored Blankenship at that standing, however he adopted by on a promise former coach Mark Richt had made, giving Rodrigo a scholarship throughout his sophomore 12 months.
Blankenship was an ideal 200-of-200 on further factors and 80-of-97 on discipline objectives throughout his faculty profession. He performed within the SEC, the place each go, run and kick can weigh closely. That helped Blankenship put together for the problem of constructing an NFL roster.
“There’s one thing to be mentioned about taking part in in the very best convention in faculty with the competitors, magnitude of video games each single week and with all of the competitors they carry on the roster yearly,” Ventrone mentioned. “I like that he’s performed on the massive stage and every little thing else that comes with it. He was ready properly to tackle this position, whether or not he’s utilizing Legos or not.”