He was pulled out of a lunch line and was ushered into a one-on-one meeting with the second-year head coach, who was about to tell him about a life-changing proposition.
“I hadn’t done anything bad, so it couldn’t have been anything bad,” Blackwell said. “I walked up there, and he let us know one-by-one.”
Blackwell was among seven IU football walk-ons awarded an athletic scholarship that day.
Born and raised in Bloomington, Blackwell said it was a lifelong aspiration realized to be awarded that scholarship at his hometown university.
“Being from here, I was always an IU fan,” Blackwell said. “As soon as I got the opportunity to play here, it was a dream come true. There was no other place I’d rather go.”
During his high school days at Bloomington High School South, Blackwell was a two-sport star in both basketball and football.
In his senior year, he was not named only the football team’s Most Valuable Player, rushing for 1,200 yards, but also was a member of the 2009 BHSS 4A state championship basketball team that went 26-0.
Also an honors student and participant in school plays, he had the opportunity to attend multiple schools on scholarship.
DePauw and Holy Cross had offered him the chance to play football at their schools.
When former IU Coach Bill Lynch approached him with the opportunity to be a preferred walk-on at IU, it was something Blackwell could not refuse.
“The reason I came here is because it’s the big time level,” Blackwell said. “And getting to this point, it’s pretty awesome. I don’t know if I could have done it if I was from somewhere else.”
During his first two years at IU, Blackwell did not see any game action.
He was a redshirt freshman for the 2009 season, and despite being named the Special Teams Scout Team Player of the Year, Blackwell failed to make it into a game the next year.
To make matters more complicated, when Lynch was fired in November 2010, Blackwell had to start from scratch attempting to impress Wilson and the new coaching staff.
“It was really difficult for me,” Blackwell said. “Being a walk-on definitely gives you a fire, and I just had to transfer it twice.”
During the 2011 season, he finally found the field in competition.
He received his first career carry on Nov. 19, 2011, against Michigan State, posting a five-yard gain on the final play.
Since then, he said he’s worked hard to reach the point where he is now but knows this will not guarantee playing time.
It is something Wilson stressed when he awarded Blackwell this opportunity and continues to emphasize to this day.
“I just told all of them that we’ll be a better team not because you’re on scholarship, but because you stay hungry,” Wilson said. “And you keep playing hard to help us win.”
For the townie in Blackwell, that’s all he needed to hear.
Now that he is on scholarship for the team he has watched from his backyard and loved all his life, he said it has been easy for him to transfer that passion toward making Indiana football a winning program.
“I’d rather go to the Rose Bowl than be on scholarship any day,” Blackwell said. “I strongly believe that we will get this ship turned around.”
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