Sept. 12, 2009
by Matt Winkeljohn, Managing Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
ATLANTA – Once upon a time, not so long ago, even from the far side of Georgia Tech’s Rose Bowl practice fields, it was nearly impossible to miss Scott Blair.
At times last year, he probably wished he could hide.
Not Thursday night. It’s hard to match, surpass or hide from moments like those in and then under Bobby Dodd Stadium — where Blair sat behind a microphone. His cheeks were rosy from nervousness and excitement, grinning widely, kind of amused to be fielding so many questions in the role of hero.
But first, before we weave our way to Blair’s glorious run in brightly-lit Bobby Dodd, when his three field goals and one wobbly touchdown pass led the Yellow Jackets to a 30-27 comeback win over Clemson, a requisite recap of darker days. They set quite a table for Blair.
Nobody called the Hall of Fame to reserve a spot.
He made 12 of 19 field goals to rank 10th in the ACC in percentage (.632), and 10th in scoring by kicking (5.3 points per game). His punting average of 38.9 yards per kick was modest, too. Sure, the guy showed no hesitation to make tackles, registering a whopping (for a kicker/punter) 10 but, eh, that’s not how a kicker is supposed to distinguish himself.
Never mind that he made 12 of 13 field goals from 40 yards and closer. He missed all six from beyond that, and fans want it all.
Was Thursday night enough?
“Scott really came up big tonight,” said coach Paul Johnson. “I think that is really going to help his confidence. He made a couple big field goals… “
Here, the coach paused, and grew a slow grin before adding, “… and threw a duck out there for a touchdown pass to help us win.”
Blair hit field goals of 24, 34 and 36 yards, the last two tying the game at 27 with 5:40 left, and the final kick good for the win with 57 seconds left.
And, oh yeah, he threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the first quarter off a fake field goal. The pass wasn’t a work of art, but it worked.
“It was a pretty good day,” Blair said, quietly mastering understatement.
When Blair’s career as a preferred walk-on began at Tech, all of this – well, maybe not the touchdown pass, given that he’d never thrown a pass in an organized game — looked possible.
Every day in the summer of 2007, as the preferred walk-on kicker from Calhoun, Ga. worked with his lead-legged colleagues alone and away from offensive and defensive players on a separate field, his kickoffs routinely out-carried others.
It was not a fluke. When opening day came, even with one of the top kickers in Tech history on the roster in Bell, and the return of kickoff specialist Mohamed Yahiaoui, Blair kicked off the season at Notre Dame as a true freshman. He handled 68 of 70 kickoffs that season.
Then… 2008. Before the season, Johnson awarded Blair a scholarship. Yet the first player to handle both kicking and punting duties at Tech in 25 seasons, since Ron Rice in 1983, had a so-so go of it.
Now, Johnson has Blair handling kickoffs and place-kicking, and leave the punting to sophomore Chandler Anderson. Blair said it helps not having to split focus on two tasks, though he enjoyed punting. Speaking of focus, he tried to as the Jackets drove for the tying and then winning scores.
“I tried not to psyche myself out,” he said. “I wasn’t keeping score in my mind. It was just another field goal. A touchdown would have been great, though.”
It came down to field goals, made field goals. Good stuff. So how did he feel after his big plays?
“Relieved,” Blair said. “Really relieved.”
Matt Winkeljohn is Managing Editor of Sting Extra OSR. Feel free to contact him with questions, comments or story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.