INDIANAPOLIS – As the deadline approached that would determine his immediate NFL fate and his cell phone remained quiet, Rodrigo Blankenship went about his business of being a nerd.
His word, not ours.
Awaiting the decision Saturday afternoon on whether the Indianapolis Colts would opt for him or incumbent kicker Chase McLaughlin – special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone informed Blankenship he was the guy – Blankenship gave his two loves some attention.
That would be Logan, his girlfriend, with whom he talked while wondering where they would be calling home.
Blankenship described her as “my rock and been a huge part of the reason that I’m here right now.’’
And that would be his Legos. Yes, Legos. Let’s call them Blankenship’s calming influence Friday evening and the ensuing cut day.
“The night before I just spent it building some Lego sets and just talking to my girlfriend,’’ Blankenship said Tuesday on a Zoom conference call. “That’s about all I could do to try and take my mind off of it. I’m so incredibly blessed to have found this opportunity regardless of which way it went.’’
Blankenship earned the right to be just the seventh opening-day kicker in the Colts’ 37 seasons in Indy, and just the second rookie (Mike Vanderjagt in ’98). He’s 23 and hadn’t been born when his predecessor, Adam Vinatieri, drilled his first NFL kick Sept. 1, 1996.
“I’m not trying to be anybody’s replacement,’’ Blankenship said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Adam and everything he’s done. I think it’s safe to say he’s the best to ever do it so far.
“I’m not trying to focus on that. I’m just trying to focus on being the best Rodrigo I can be and hopefully that’ll get job done.’’
Blankenship insisted he had no indication how the team was leaning following his training camp competition with McLaughlin.
“I’d definitely say it was pretty neck-and-neck and went down to the wire,’’ he said. “I just had to pray and just count my blessings for this opportunity regardless which way it went.’’
Chris Ballard insisted picking sides in the Blankenship vs. McLaughlin duel was “splitting hairs.’’
“At the end of the day it was a tough choice,’’ Ballard said. “We just decided to go with Rod.’’
Rod and everything about him.
On the field, Blankenship was recipient of last season’s Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top placekicker. At Georgia and kicking in the ultra-competitive SEC, he converted 80-of-97 field goals (82.5 percent) and was perfect on 200 PATs.
“Over the last four years kicking, I definitely played in some pretty incredible environments, some pretty incredible stadiums jam-packed with fans screaming at the top of their lungs, and it’s so loud you can’t hear yourself think,’’ he said.
Off the field, he’s, well, a tad different. Blankenship first got hooked on Lego sets in 2007.
“I’ve always loved them and collected them even since then,’’ he said, adding he’s “a big kid at heart. I’ve collected Legos for a really long time and I’ve also been into Star Wars and Marvel comics.
“I’m a huge superhero geek about all that kind of stuff; also, Transformers. All that kind of sci-fi, nerdy, geeky kind of stuff.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.