To be perfectly Blount, give the kid a chance
The question hung in the air like a Craig Hentrich punt.
Undrafted rookie free-agent running back LeGarrette Blount looked straight ahead forlornly, searching for the right words.
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=legarrette+blount&iid=7444179″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/7444179/rose-bowl-ohio-state/rose-bowl-ohio-state.jpg?size=500&imageId=7444179″ width=”234″ height=”347″ /]The question: Do you understand that even if you make the NFL, even if you gain 10,000 yards in the next 10 years as a Tennessee Titan, still every story written about you will include the line, “You might remember Blount as the Oregon player who threw the punch …”
It knocked the wind out of Blount as easily as if he’d taken a linebacker’s helmet to his stomach.
The answer to the question?
“Yeah, I know that,” Blount said after a recent Titans practice and after a few moments of careful thought. “I’ve tried my hardest to get past it, and for the most part I’m doing really well with that. These guys around here don’t bring it up. I really don’t have trouble with it around these people. As long as my teammates are here to support me I’m definitely gonna be fine.”
You might remember Blount as the Oregon player who threw the punch after the Ducks’ 2009 season-opening loss at Boise State. His short right hand dropped Broncos defensive end Byron Hout to the blue turf and touched off a firestorm. Blount wound up suspended for the season, though he was reinstated in November, with most of the season and his chance to impress NFL scouts gone.
The Florida native went undrafted, but the Titans, who traded LenDale White on draft day, signed him. The team needs a power back, someone who can get the tough yards between the tackles while Chris Johnson (hopefully, anyway, because his holdout seems to be getting more contentious) is busy hitting home runs on the edge. Blount, at 6 feet and 241 pounds, could fit the bill.
And he is fitting in here. He at least looks the part, and he’s got great feet for his size. Blount had 17 touchdowns for the Ducks as a junior, so he has shown a nose for the goal line.
“I’m definitely picking up things faster,” Blount said. “They’re giving me all of the reps I can handle.”
Now can he shed his college rep, the one that paints him as a thug, as selfish and immature.
“I’m definitely looking forward to them giving me this opportunity,” Blount said. “As long as they give it to me I’m gonna take it and run with it.”
Blount understands not everyone is rooting for him.
“I think most people are excited that I’m in the situation that I am in,” Blount said. “But there are going to be people who always remember the punch who think I should be banned from football period.”
Blount long since has given up reading about himself. He said his mom and his sister check up on nearly every word written about him.
He doesn’t like the idea.
“They read about it all of the time,” Blount said. “And it gets to them and they just hate it. I was just like, ‘Stay off the internet.’ I told them that. Don’t be on there. … There has been some positive stuff lately. But every now and then someone is saying what’s he doing in the NFL, why was he even given a second chance to play and all kind of stuff like that. And they just hate it.”
When the Titans announced the signing of Blount they swore up and down they had done their due diligence. They could point to his reinstatement, to his apologies to Hout and Boise State coach Chris Petersen.
But all of that goes away in an instant if Blount is caught doing anything criminal or untoward, like getting cited for misdemeanor assault in a strip club around 3 a.m. And he knows it.
“I’m definitely on the straight and narrow,” Blount said. “I’m not gonna stray at all. No strip clubs, no bars, no nothing. As soon as I leave here at 3 o’clock I’m gonna go to my hotel room and stay there until 6:30 the next morning when I have to be back.”
Blount’s speech and manner are totally disarming. He’s thoughtful. He measures his words. He makes eye contact. He seems genuinely contrite. Given the opportunity, who wouldn’t take back one horrible moment in their lives?
Blount has watched tape of the punch. It’s practically inescapable. Search for it on YouTube and you’ll find several versions, many of which have been viewed more than 100,000 times.
“The thing is I don’t even remember it (the punch) happening,” Blount said. “It happened so fast. It was like a blackout. You know, blackout … lights on.
“It shocks me that I did that. I was like, what was I thinking? I was really upset for a long time. I didn’t practice for a few weeks. I didn’t do anything. I was just kind of was upset. I didn’t wanna do anything.”
Now he wants to do something: Enjoy football again and realize his NFL dream. And maybe, just maybe, be remembered as more than just the Oregon player who threw the punch …
“I hope I can do some good things here and people will start to forget about it,” Blount said. “I definitely hope so.”