Yesterday afternoon against Texas A&M senior Rodrigo Blankenship stepped onto Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium for the final time during his career as a player for the University of Georgia. It was an emotional day for many, but for Blankenship, it just meant more.
“I was very close to tearing up,” Blankenship said. “It was surreal to be in that moment. This stadium is the best in the world and we have the best in the country. It was a really special feeling to go out there and be lined up with my guys.”
Yesterday he also got to do something that he’s never done before, and that’s run through the “Power G” banner to lead his team out onto the field. This season, senior running back Brian Herrien usually has been the one to do it, but Blankenship said he got permission from him to do so.
Before that opportunity, Blankenship was honored on the field during the Senior Day festivities. He was accompanied by his parents, head coach Kirby Smart, and his girlfriend Logan. When the moment came, Blankenship didn’t shy away from the limelight.
“I’d been thinking about it all day. I wanted to break through and thought it would be amazing,” Blankenship said. “It was everything I dreamt of.”
Blankenship was one of the sole reasons that the Bulldogs’ prevailed over the Aggies, 19-13. He carried the team and led in points as he nailed four field goals, and two of them came in the pouring rain. His third field goal made him the all-time leading scorer in Georgia Football history with 418 points.
Blankenship made strikes from 41, 49, 37, and 31 yards. His 37 yard made attempt beat the previous record held by former Georgia kicker Blair Walsh who had 412 points. Blankenship is second in SEC history as former Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson holds the record with 480 points.
Blankenship has made himself a staple in the Georgia Bulldog community, and after the game, the student section in the west end zone shouted “We love you ‘Hot Rod'” continuously as he ran into the locker room. He is loved so much by the Bulldog faithful, that before every game while the starters are being announced, that he gets the loudest cheer out of all the players.
“You know everybody loves Rod,” Smart said. “He is such a special player. Everybody went nuts when he ran out through the banner.”
Earlier this season, Smart said during a press conference that Rodrigo’s work ethic is great and that he practices all the time. He recalled being in his office on the fourth floor of the Butts-Mehre building one day in the offseason and seeing Blankenship kicking continuously for a long period of time on the upper practice fields.
Since Blankenship arrived in Athens the love for him has always been felt. The fifth-year senior walked onto the team in 2015 when he wasn’t offered a scholarship. The Sprayberry High School product was awarded ‘Special Teams Player of the Year’ three out his four years there. He redshirted his freshman year and won the starting placekicker job in 2016 against Ole Miss over former Bulldog kicker Willie Hamm.
The night before the Notre Dame game in 2017 Kirby Smart told Blankenship he was going to be awarded a scholarship, and after kicking the winning field goal the next day he got to tell the team himself about the news.
Throughout his senior season, he has been nothing less than stellar with the only blemish being the missed field goal against South Carolina that would have tied the game. Blankenship has been named a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award for the second straight season, and many of Georgia’s fans have called for him to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Blankenship had made 23 of his 26 field goal attempts this season, and he is perfect in his PAT attempts.
“That’s what Rod does,” said safety Richard LeCounte. “He’s a special guy. We take him for granted because he’s automatic. Rod is a for sure weapon.”
Saturday, Blankenship etched his name into the Georgia record books alongside kicking Bulldog greats such as Marshall Morgan, Kevin Butler, Billy Bennett, Brandon Coutu, and Walsh. The day all started with Blankenship being able to do something he had never done before, but something he dreamt of.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Blankenship.