December 11, 2007

Blanton thrives on the challenge

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - One of the top position battles in the upcoming Shrine Bowl between North Carolina and South Carolina will be between the wide receivers of South Carolina and the defensive backs of North Carolina. The secondary commissioned to mirror five-star A.J. Green and four-stars Marquan Jones and Brandon Ford is led by Matthews (N.C.) Butler's Robert Blanton.

Blanton has exerted himself as one of the early leaders for North Carolina both in the secondary and throughout the team. The 6-foot-1 defensive back can play safety and corner and has a knack for coming up with big plays in crucial situations and against the best competition, so this week's game should be right up his alley.

"We've got a lot of kids out here with a lot talent," Blanton said. "We're gonna go get us a 'W' on Saturday. I'll be stepping it up a couple notches."

If Blanton says it others will likely listen. The versatile defensive back impresses as much with his character as he does with his unique talents. Case in point: While Blanton felt that his first day of practice went great, he couldn't get past his one early regret in the all-star game week.

"I thought we were gonna spend a lot more time at the hospitals but I really enjoyed the one day we were there," he said. "I'm just enjoying hanging out with all of these North Carolina boys, great attitudes, great mentality and great faith."

Blanton's high character is evident in his play as well. He is a player that thrives off of an outstanding work ethic that can border on obsessive. Blanton's work wasn't done after the practice field as he volunteered his nightly routine that wouldn't change.

"I gotta do some abs when I get back to the hotel," he said. "I try to do a couple hundred every day."

Entering his senior football season with high expectations for his team, a 10-3 season was not what the Notre Dame commit had in mind. However, after the Irish endured a historically bad season in 2007, that kind of mentality is just what is needed in South Bend.

"Of course it was disappointing because we didn't play on December 8th but I love those guys very much and I'm gonna miss them a lot," he said. "We did some great things. We won the conference which we hadn't done in about four years."

Despite the struggles this season for Notre Dame, Blanton is excited about getting on campus and rebuilding the program.

"I'm looking very forward to it," he said. "There's great players down there when I was down there, great coaches. I'm excited about it."

Blanton has maintained a friendship with a couple of other Irish commits and is working on picking at least one more for his coach.

"I talk to (Jamoris) Slaughter and Braxton Cave," he said. "Those are the only two I talk to. Kenneth Page, the big offensive linemen, I've been talking to him and trying to get him to come too but he ain't tough enough to leave home just yet."

Blanton jokes as if daring Page to step out of his comfort zone and commit to a program that has struggled of late. He is excited about facing the challenge of righting the ship at Notre Dame because challenges are what he has thrived on.

Saturday afternoon with the South Carolina wide receivers lined up across from him, he will have plenty of challenges once again.

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