'Hot Rod for Heisman' sounds nice to Kirby Smart

How about kicker Rodrigo Blankenship?

“I'm ready to start now,” Smart said Monday. “I mean, ‘Hot Rod’ does a great job.”

Indeed, “Hot Rod for Heisman” has a nice ring to it. But it's not a realistic proposition.

Smart was simply answering a reporters’ light-hearted question posing the prospect. But Blankenship’s performance this season – and in seasons past – certainly is award worthy.

Blankenship has been reaping a lot of those awards as it is. On Monday, he was named the SEC’s special teams player of the week the third time in five games this season. The latest one came in the wake of his three field goal, four extra point performance in Saturday’s 43-14 victory at Tennessee.

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Blankenship’s work included a 50-yard field goal in the first quarter that made him 5-of-6 for his career from beyond 49 yards. He remains the SEC’s leading scorer this season at 11.6 points per game and is tied for No. 2 nationally with 2.20 field goals/game.

Blankenship leads the nation in scoring with 60 points through five games and his 371 career points and 64 successful field goals rank fourth in UGA history.

But Smart said Blankenship’s contributions go beyond what he does with his powerful right leg.

“He does everything he’s asked and he's a great leader for our team,” Smart said. “He's very consistent. He has an approach to the game and an approach to his method of doing things that is unique to him. He believes in it. We trust him a lot, and he's been a tremendous leader with our team because people see how hard Rod works.”

Blankenship is a fifth-year senior from Marietta who didn’t earn a scholarship until his third season with the Bulldogs. Smart presented him with a scholarship the day before Blankenship kicked a game-winning field goal against Notre Dame in South Bend in 2017.

Blankenship has done nothing but improve since. This season, he’s 11-of-11 on field goals – including two 50 yarders – and has not missed an extra point in his career (175-for-175). Today, he is UGA’s most popular football player, at least according to the decibel level of ovations during player introductions before home games. 

Of course, a kicker has never won the Heisman Trophy, which goes annually to the player determined to be the most outstanding in college football. There is, however, a national award just for kickers.

Blankenship was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award last year. He’s a favorite to win it this year.

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