Georgia graduate place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has been included as one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is awarded to the most outstanding football player in America who began his career as a walk-on.
Blankenship and the other two finalists – California’s safety/kick returner Ashtyn Davis and Michigan State defensive end Kenny Willekes – will be honored and the winner will be announced at a luncheon in Springdale, Ark., on Dec. 9. The event will be hosted by the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation, in conjunction with the Springdale Rotary Club.
The trophy is named in honor of Brandon Burlsworth. Without one D1 scholarship offer, Brandon walked on to the Razorback team in 1994, worked his way to being a three-year starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998. Burlsworth was selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL draft but was tragically killed in a car accident 11 days later. The Burlsworth Foundation was created in his memory and supports the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular, those children who have limited opportunities.
Honors have already begun to roll in for Blankenship. The five-time 2019 Southeastern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week has earned one of the National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar Athlete Awards; is a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, and he is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and Wuerffel Trophy.
Blankenship, a native of Marietta, Ga., is the SEC’s second leading scorer this year, averaging 9.2 points per game, and has connected on 19-of-22 field goal attempts and all 35 of his PATs. He has drilled three 50-yard field goals during his team’s 9-1 start. Blankenship is the FBS active leader by 11 with a total of 72 made field goals.
The former walk-on who earned a 2018 UGA undergraduate degree is a 2019 CBS Sports/Athlon Midseason All-American. Blankenship has connected on a school record 189 consecutive PATs, which ranks second in SEC history. Thanks in large part to his contribution, Georgia leads the nation with 280 PATs in a row dating back to 2014.
The 2018 Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team member and 2018 SEC Community Service Team member has been just as exceptional away from the field as he has been on the field.
Blankenship is a member of the UGA Athletic Association’s Leadership Academy (L.E.A.D.) and has served on the SEC Football Leadership Council for the past two years. He has given his time to the following activities and many more: spokesperson for “No More,” which is a public service announcement against domestic violence and sexual assault; visitation at Camp Sunshine, which is a camp that provides support programs for children with cancer and their families; volunteer for the “Empty Bowl” luncheon, which is a luncheon sponsored by the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia where hand-painted ceramic bowls done by the football players were part of a silent auction to raise funds for needy families; and volunteer for the Home Runs for Hometown Rivals, which is a softball game at UGA’s Foley Field for Special Olympians.