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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, January 28, 2011

By Sammy Batten

Late recruit poised for early impact

Joseph Blanks
( image)

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Joseph “JoJo'' Blanks traveled more than a thousand miles to get to Greenville from his home in Pembroke. But the end result was worth the long journey.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker became the latest player to join the East Carolina football recruiting Class of 2011 earlier this week when he accepted a late scholarship offer from the Pirate coaching staff.

“They need linebackers and I love to be in a place where they need me,'' said Blanks, who chose ECU over offers from Indiana State and Maine.

Blanks had wanted to play for the Pirates after finishing up his senior year in 2009 at Pembroke's Purnell Swett High School, where he was a two-time area defensive player of the year and a Shrine Bowl all-star selection.

But he first needed some seasoning athletically and academically at the junior college level. The only problem was there is only one football-playing junior college in North Carolina — Louisburg College — and Blanks couldn't seem to get in touch with the Hurricane coaching staff.

Luckily for Blanks, a friend who was helping get his name out to recruiters ran across Joseph Fenelon, a coach helping recruit players for a first-year junior college program. The school, ASA College, was located in Brooklyn, NY, some 597 miles from the rural, small-town environment he'd known all his life in Robeson County.

“I was ready for a change, so I didn't waste any time,'' Blanks said. “I graduated from high school on June 12th and was up here in Brooklyn by June 16th.''

Blanks went on to start two straight seasons at middle linebacker for the Avengers. He ranked second among ASA tacklers with a total of 49 in 2010, while also contributing five sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

East Carolina's new coaching staff, which features another Robeson County native in head coach Ruffin McNeill, began showing an interest in Blanks last October and November. The Pirates eventually offered a scholarship in December, but had to retract it when they learned some of Blanks' academic credits at ASA wouldn't transfer to ECU.

By January, however, a plan to get Blanks the credits he needed to enroll by next fall was devised and the Pirates invited him to campus for an official visit on the weekend of January 20.

“When I first got there, everybody was so welcoming,'' Blanks said. “I got to meet the defensive coordinator and he seemed sold on me. Then I talked to Coach McNeill. He loved me and said he'd get back to me in two or three days. He did, and they offered. I said, 'Yes,' on the spot.''

Blanks is scheduled to depart Brooklyn next week for Pembroke, where he'll immediately enroll in a 10-week program at Robeson Community College. By the time the program ends in April, Blanks should be fully qualified to join the ECU program.

“He'll make it,'' said Mark Heil, who coached Blanks his final two seasons at Purnell Swett. “To me, this is just an awesome story. This kid from Pembroke just decided to step out and say, 'I'm going to be my own man and do whatever I have to do to play college football.' He went from Pembroke to Brooklyn, NY, and did it all on his own. I don't know that I've ever been more proud of a young man from Purnell Swett than him.''

The Pirates are hoping Blanks can fill an immediate need at either the middle linebacker position vacated by the graduation of Melvin Patterson or the weakside linebacker spot where Dustin Lineback has departed.

“Anytime you bring a junior college kid in you're anticipating he'll play immediately,'' Heil said. “Ruffin is a defensive-minded coach anyway, and they didn't play that well on defense last year. He's not going to put up with that. So he's gone out and gotten people who can help immediately.

“JoJo is ready to fill in and hopefully make an impact right away.''

Blanks is known for his physical style and excellent football instincts. He's excited to bring those skills back to his home state and to East Carolina.

“I'm ready to get back home and take this next step to my future in football,'' he said. “I think I've got a great place to play football this year and I know I can make some noise in Conference USA.''

Blanks will officially become a Pirate next Wednesday when college football's national signing period opens.

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Sammy Batten's Archives

01/28/2011 08:39:07 AM


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