Faith, hard work and focusing on ‘the little things’ have CB Julian Blackmon prepared to top last year

SALT LAKE CITY — For Julian Blackmon, the challenge of becoming the best football player possible begins far from the football field.

“Mentally, it just comes down to doing everything right off the field,” the junior cornerback said. “I think you’ve got to do everything right off the field, whether it comes to going to class, being on time for class … all of that helps my mental edge.”

And for the Layton alum, who led the Utes in interceptions (4) and passes defended (10) in the 2017 season, he sees his ultimate goal of being the best football player he can be as a journey made up of hundreds of seemingly small details.

“I feel like the little things really matter in football,” he said. “You can understand the big things, but if you don’t have those little things, like understanding which foot first or having the right hand on somebody, you can really mess up.” He said that he feels pressure to improve after last year’s standout season that ended with all conference honors and being named MVP of the team’s bowl game. “I have to improve. As good as I was last year, I wasn’t good enough. At least, I don’t think I was. I just want to be the best. I want to be great.”

His relentless drive to improve is just one of the things cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah loves about the young man who had never played cornerback until he arrived on the University of Utah campus.

“He works and works and works and works until I have to tell him, ‘Stop working. You need to rest. If you’re going to get better, you have to recover,’” Shah said. “He does everything I ask him to do.”

Blackmon and his roommate, wide receiver Samson Nacua, sought an extra edge in the offseason, working with a trainer in Provo who helped them with speed, agility and strength.

“It doesn’t hurt to be faster,” he said smiling. “Especially at corner. I just think there is always room for improvement.”

While Blackmon said he feels more comfortable as he enters his third season at Utah, Shah said it explains how he’s changed since he came to Utah as what head coach Kyle Whittingham has called “a diamond in the rough.”

“The thing that’s become apparent is his level of confidence in his own ability,” Shah said. “When (we) recruited him, we watched him play basketball (at Layton High). …He was a pretty good football player. But he had such an athletic ability, I felt it was transferable.”

Some questioned whether Utah should offer Blackmon a schoalrship, as he didn’t have other offers and missed most of his high school senior season with a broken hand.

Shah said Utah coaches never wavered.

“Coach (Morgan) Scalley and I loved him,” he said. “His first year he was swimming. … He’d never, every played corner against the guys we were asking him to every week, and it was hard.”

Blackmon confirms his first year at Utah was overwhelming. Shah said that as he …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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