Husker Spotlight - Adam Blankenship

Being the son of a coach isn't easy. You are expected to do more, treated apparently worse and when it's all said and done, while others can go home to a quiet home away from a scrutinizing coach, you are going from the possibility of one butt-chewing, right into another. And, that's if the coach is only decent. If he runs one of the top high school football programs around, well, it's no wonder Adam Blankenship knows how to play this game.

You just got done whipping up on some unfortunate opponent by an even more unfortunate margin, well, at least for the other team. Still though, because the team's expectations are so impossibly high, you are hearing it from the defensive coaches about what you did wrong and when.

Butt-chewing done, you head home to a nice night of reflection, relaxation and even a little reveling in what your team did.

Well, unless you are Adam Blankenship. You see, his dad (Bill) is the head coach for the perennial powerhouse, Union Redskins and during his tenure, Union has made the playoffs every year (of 11), made the state championship game five times and came away with the holy grail in the season of 2002. Oh, and he's the athletic director as well.

The butt-chewing has just gotten started.

Truthfully though, Adam says in all good nature that the double-edged sword that comes with being the son of the head coach has done far more good in his life than anything to ever take away from his enjoyment of the game he has lived to play. "It makes you better." Adam said. "I'd hear it from the defensive coaches and I would get home and I would hear it again. If you didn't care about getting better though, you might not like it, but I'm the player I am because of that."

The player he is or was I guess I should say, was enough to tally 10 sacks, 85 tackles and 3 fumble recoveries as a senior. All that while helping his team to yet another of the many state title games they have played.

Being that player because he was the son of a head coach, well, it wasn't always easy because you knew you were going to get "it" worse than everyone else. "Oh, you know the coach is going to be harder on you if he's your dad." Adam said. "You get judged on a little different level, because no matter how good you do something, it could have always been better."

And according to the youngest Blankenship son, that has translated to not just nice stats, but an attitude that you have to have to not just play the game, but play it at a certain level. "At Union, you are expected to do a lot anyway." Adam said. "What having the coach as your dad does is just motivate you to do more, try harder and be better. You can't ever take a play off, you try your hardest not to make any stupid mistakes and you just never give up or you know what's going to happen if you do."

Is it really that bad though? Does A.D./H.C., Bill Blankenship carry the iron stick so to speak? "My dad is supportive of what I do just like he was with my brothers." Adam said. "They played offense and I play defense, so it's different, but you still play the game the same way."

"He's always been fair about us as sons of a coach, but he knows what it takes to make us better."

One thing that I learned personally about reviewing film is that it wasn't hard to pick out the sons of coaches. Fundamentally sound, almost veteran like in how they play the game, whether it was decisions in an instant or judgement in the course of a play, whatever their physical attributes, mentally, they were ready for bigger and better things.

On Adam's film, it was again, fairly similar in that, but even someone so solid in the very basics of the position knows that to be proportionately successful at the Division 1-A level, it's another step he can't wait to take. "I'm like any player in that I want to play just as soon as I can." he said. "I know though that just like here, the coaches there will know when I am able to get out there and really help the team."

"You work your tail off to get out there and just take advantage when it's your time to step onto the field."

The position Adam will play has a little pressure of it's own, something he's gotten used to over the years. This kind of pressure however isn't to slate the appetites of those there, but to equal the reputations of those long gone and some, legends in status. Grant Wistrom, Mike Rucker and Jared Tomich, just a few of the names that have made the RE tradition at Nebraska a staple in college football. Even if they haven't played for awhile, they are still the standard for which all future rush ends will be judged.

That suits Adam just fine, but he's not looking to melt into someone else's identity, rather, he's looking to create one of his own.

"When I am done at Nebraska, I want say that I made an impact." he said. "I want to be able to say that I did what it took to help the team win games, titles or whatever. I am not going to be like a Wistrom, because he did what he did and I do things differently. Whatever it is though, I want to make a difference whenever I'm out there on the field."

A difference maker at RE. A Husker fan would right about now sit back, roll their eyes and think about when the last one really was. Not to degrade the current or recent contributions, but let's face it, when you compare most anyone to the era that the aforementioned greats played in, it's hard to match up at all.

Believe it or not, that's what Adam is excited about most of all. You say he can't, he'll show you he can. You say it's not possible, he will make it happen and another time, just for good measure. At a program like Nebraska, with the tradition they have at the position, the pressure is something he plans on feeding off of his entire career in Lincoln. "That's what you thrive on." Adam said of the pressure. "Stopping someone on fourth and inches, having to make a play to win a game, that's every dream you have is to be in a moment like that every game."

"You find out what you are made of at times like that, so I love it every time something like that happens."

As the son of a successful coach, pressure is almost cliche'. The kind of pressure Adam has faced thus far in his young career, you could say that mentally, he's already prepared for anything he might face. Adam does state though that no great coach uses pressure to make you play better, but teach you to put the pressure on yourself, so that even when that coach isn't there, you still never stop. "My dad taught us all to expect the best out of ourselves." he said. "You don't play well because if you don't you are going to hear it from them. You play well because you put more pressure on yourself to succeed than anything they can throw at you."

"I guess I have gotten a lot of things out of it, but I've grown up expecting the best from myself and not waiting for others to expect it out of me. That's how you succeed."

"You don't wait for something to happen. You just make it happen. That's how you win games."

Steve Ryan can be reached at huskerconnection@neb.rr.com or 402-730-5619


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