On the football field Robert Blanton does not need any reason to start talking. But when the Notre Dame freshman is dealing with the media, he needs just the slightest nudge.
"I don't talk any trash, honestly. Nah, I'm pretty quiet," Blanton said although his eyes and smile told a completely different tale.
But the freshman cornerback was still sticking with his story when asked about talking smack with senior defensive lineman Patrick Kuntz.
"I don't mess with him," Blanton said again with a grin. "He's a great guy, I don't mess with him."
But once Blanton heard that Kuntz had referred to him as a Chihuahua, Blanton bit.
"That's jacked up. Man, I'll have to get him tomorrow in practice," he said. "He called me a Chihuahua for real? That's very disrespectful. Wow, I wasn't expecting that."
Asked why Kuntz would call him that and Blanton feigned puzzlement.
"I have no idea," he said. "I guess he's an ugly guy so he's used to having ugly dogs like Chihuahuas. I don't know."
Once he started he didn't stop.
"Did (Kuntz) tell you guys he won the Ugly Man Award?" Blanton asked reporters. "We have an ugly man contest in our dorm and he won."
Blanton admitted that he was joking before adding, "He's an ugly guy though."
The freshman is listed at 180 pounds, but is not afraid to mix it up with the 283-pound senior. Blanton said that he likes to wrestle (rhymes with hassle) with Kuntz.
"I think my hands are pretty quick. If I get some leverage on Kuntz I'm always able to take him down," he said. "He's pretty fat. He doesn't have any muscle, so you know fat weighs more so it's a little harder to lift him. After I get him back on that one foot hopping, it's over."
Sophomore wide receiver Golden Tate has had his share of battles with Blanton on the practice field. Tate has no problem with engaging an opponent with trash talk, but only starts it with one guy.
"I'll talk if they talk to me first, but I'm not just going to start talking," Tate said. "I won't back down, but I won't start it. With Blanton I will because I already know if I don't say something first, he will. It's fun, it never gets personal or serious."
Tate is not really able to judge Blanton's ability as a talker.
"I don't really listen, I just talk," Tate said. "I don't listen to a word he says, I don't know what he's says. I just know something's coming out so I'm going to beat him to it."
But the receiver is convinced that what helps Blanton as a jawer also serves him well as a player.
"I think it's his personality," Tate said when asked what makes Blanton good. "I mean obviously he works hard, but his personality is that he's competitive, he doesn't like to be beat."
And Blanton has been talking since day one.
"You heard him before you saw him," said Tate. "Anything he did, playing pool, playing Ping-Pong, walking around, walking, eating. Whatever it is, he's competing and he's talking.
"At first it was like, ‘Who is this kid?' and then he proved himself, he can do it. He can say whatever he wants because he can back it up. At first it was like, ‘Who is this freshman who thinks he's this hotshot?' Then in camp he's backing it up. He's talking and he's backing it up."
But that will not stop Tate from giving it to him any chance he gets. Blanton announced his presence to Notre Dame fans with a weaving 47-yard interception return for a touchdown in the win over Purdue. The scene on the sideline afterward was similar to many on the LaBar Practice Complex with Tate talking over the freshman.
"I made fun of him for it like, ‘You ran slow, you ran slow and everyone knows it. You were running in slow-motion it seemed like,'" Tate recalled.
It's clear that the coaches have seen Blanton back up his words too, as they elevated him to starter when senior cornerback Terrail Lambert missed the last three games with an injury. That early experience should benefit Blanton going forward.
"I believe I'm an upperclassman," he said confidently. "Not necessarily from playing, but just knowing that nobody is going to take it light on me because they think I'm a freshman or anything like that. So you can't start playing like a freshman, you can't think like a freshman, can't act like one either."
Blanton said that nothing about college football surprised him, but that does not mean his first six months on campus have not been educational.
"I've learned to play corner better, learned a little bit in school and learned how the system works at Notre Dame," he said.
He admitted that he still has plenty of work to do, but had an interesting opinion on the idea of potential.
"I don't think there is such a thing as potential," he said. "Either you're going to be great or you're going to listen to people tell you that how great you can be and never be great.
"You want to see how I see it? You can come and be the best everyday or you can start thinking you're the best and then I'm going to jump in front of you and I'm going to be the best because I'm coming to be the best everyday. If you think you're going to stop me from being the best you've got another thing coming."