LaGarrette Blount: Labeled a Thug, Given Few Chances, When Will He Be Praised?
Despite showing great resilience, the breakout rookie season of LaGarrette Blount is widely going unnoticed. A 6-0' 247 pound Florida native, the Tampa Bay running back leads his team with 777 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the season.
Possibly even more impressive is that Blount has only played in eleven games. He has received more then ten carries in only nine games this season, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and breaking runs of twenty yards or more seven times.
The Buccaneers have pulled out a surprising 8-6 record, and he provided the productivity that veteran Cadillac Williams could not. Other than quarterback Josh Freeman, it could be argued that Blount is one the most valuable weapon on the Tampa Bay offense.
The road to the NFL has been far from easy for Blount. The media, coaches, and fans have done their best to block any chance for his success.
Playing prep football in Perry, Florida, Blount rushed for over 1,000 yards in three high school seasons. Despite his size and athleticism, he only garnered a two-star rating and was barely recruited in 2005.
He intended to attend Auburn as a non-scholarship player but failed to qualify academically. While many may have quit, he took the blue-collar route to a four-year university.
Blount left his home state to attend East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Mississippi. In two years of junior college play, he rushed for 2,292 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hardly recruited out of high school, Blount was now considered one of the best junior college prospects.
He signed with Oregon over West Virginia, Florida State, Ole Miss and countless others.
Splitting time with Jeremiah Johnson, Blount still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards as a junior for the Ducks.
Despite clashing with former coach Mike Bellotti, he quickly became a fan favorite for his impressive runs that included broken tackles, hurdling defenders, and deceptive speed. Later broken by LaMichael James, he rushed for school-record seventeen touchdowns in 2008.
Overcoming off-the field issues early in 2009, Blount aimed for big things as a senior for the Ducks. Now led by first-year coach Chip Kelly, the team eyed a season-opening visit to battle Boise State.
Following a 19-8 loss, an infamous scene erupted inside Bronco Stadium. The incident needs not be retold, as the nation can recall Blount punching Byron Hout and teammate Garrett Embry.
The raging anger of Blount was a result of personal disappointment, a hostile environment, and the dejection of losing a big game. While his actions are inexcusable, how was his any different from those of Ron Artest, Roberto Alomar, Dennis Rodman or a pitching-mound brawl in baseball?
As video spread of "the punch", the nation quickly labeled him an "angry thug" and pointed out that the Oregon football program was out of control.
After only one game as head coach, the win-less (0-1) Kelly suspended the senior for the remainder of the 2009 campaign. The star running back was not dismissed from the team and was given the choice or remaining with the team.
He practiced with the scout team, attended anger management sessions, and apologized to both Hout and Boise State coach Chris Peterson. When many would have run (Jeremiah Masoli, Cam Newton), he chose to deal with the negative outcome of his actions.
Missing the majority of the season, Blount watched James steal his starting position and the spotlight of Oregon fans.
He was reinstated by Kelly and Bellotti after the Stanford game and didn't touch the ball until the Civil War. He finished his senior season with 14 carries for 82 yards and one touchdown.
A certain disappointment for a player with high NFL hopes following his junior year.
With questions regarding his character, the former-Duck was not selected in the 2010 NFL draft. Most considered his playing career over, but he then signed a free agent contract with the Tennessee Titans.
Once again the passionate running back made headlines. In training camp, he and defensive end Eric Bakhtiari scuffled following Blount's helmet being ripped off. The Titan rookie then threw a right-handed punch at the face-mask of Bakhtiari.
Known for his punch in Boise, the video once again went viral and critiques questioned the character of Blount. The rookie somehow managed to make the Titans 53-man roster only to be waived on September 5, 2010.
A day later, the Buccaneers made their best free-agent signing of the year, although the majority of NFL fans and media don't consider Blount a star rookie player.
Few have chose to recognize the struggles, accomplishments, and humility the running back has experienced since leaving Perry in 2006.
While it is easier to look at the negative and dismiss second chances, it may be time for the media and fans to enjoy the entertainment he brings to the game of football.
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