When Rodrigo Blankenship first put on a Georgia jersey in 2015, he was a walk-on, paying his own way through college.
Three years later, Blankenship is on scholarship and has become of the most recognizable Bulldogs, thanks to the thick rimmed glasses worn underneath his helmet and reliable leg but to his coach, Blankenship has become a weapon.
“He just continues to pound the ball and does a great job doing it,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “He’s a leader on our team. He’s awesome to work with. He’s become a weapon, and we have to use him as such.”
Blankenship and the Bulldogs host Middle Tennessee at noon Saturday at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs moved kickoff from 7:15 p.m. to noon because of the expected impact of Hurricane Florence.
One of the more reliable kickers in the nation, Blankenship totals an .841 field-goal percentage and has made every extra point he’s attempted in three seasons as a Bulldog.
While raw talent is one of the main reasons for his success at Georgia, the secret to Blankenship’s growth is found in his work ethic.
“I really just think that everything that has transpired over the last two years has just been a result of me just trying to work as hard as I can and do everything in my power to be the best teammate and best asset to the team I can be a day in and day out,” Blankenship said. “It’s just me wanting to be the best that I can be for this team and that’s been what’s driven me since I first stepped on campus three years back.”
Since his freshman season when he made 77.8 percent of his field-goal attempts, Blankenship has only gained strength and endurance. After making both field-goal attempts Saturday against South Carolina and producing touchbacks on all seven Bulldogs kickoffs, Blankenship was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.
A junior from Marietta, Blankenship has not missed on a field goal or an extra-point attempt this season entering Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee.
“He’s been incredible to be honest with you,” Smart said. “Our special-teams staff does a tremendous job to make sure he’s fresh. He does a tremendous job of taking care of his body. It’s shown in the last two games in the power and drive consistently. Most guys wear out. As the game goes on, they have to get another kicker.”
All those extra reps and focus during practice have caused Blankenship to become so reliable, his offensive teammates know if they can’t get the ball in the end zone at the end of a drive, betting on Blankenship to get three points is almost a sure thing.
“It definitely feels good just to know that if we don’t score here, we have a guaranteed three points to be on the board,” wide receiver Tyler Simmons said. “He adds a lot to our team other than just being Rodrigo, but those three points, they definitely help us.”