H.B. Undaunted

PITTSBURGH -- Horatio Benedict Blades was born to play in the National Football League, and after the Washington Redskins selected him with the first of their two sixth-round picks Sunday afternoon he'll get his chance.

It's been well-documented that his father, Bennie, played for the Detroit Lions, while uncles Brian and Al were with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, respectively. H.B. was the 179th pick overall, but he was not an afterthought for the Redskins.

Washington wanted to upgrade its linebacker depth and did so by taking Southern Cal outside linebacker Dallas Swartz in the fifth round and Blades as an inside backer in the sixth. While his limited speed and size -- 4.65 40-yard dash time at Pitt's Pro Day and nearly 5-feet, 11 inches tall and 236 pounds -- might have been a factor in his getting taken so late in the draft, Blades said he patterns himself on undersized NFL middle linebackers like London Fletcher and Zach Thomas. He'll have an opportunity to learn under Fletcher, who signed with the Redskins as a free agent during the offseason.

"That gives me a lot of encouragement,'' Blades said. "I can go in, and they aren't going to see my height as an issue as long as I go in, make plays and bust my tail off. That's all you can ask for from a player. ... I worked hard on and off the field at Pitt, so there's no reason to think I won't continue to do that with the Redskins. And I'm looking forward to the challenge.''

Just a few notes on Fletcher. He is 5-10 and 245 pounds and is a nine-year NFL veteran who spent the past five seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Fletcher led the team in tackles every year (2002-2006), including a career-best and Buffalo-record 209 in 2002. Prior to his tenure with the Bills, he spent the first four years in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams (1998-2001) and was part of their Super Bowl XXXIV championship team. During his career, he has played in 144 games with 128 starts and compiled 1,385 tackles, 27.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

"(Blades) reminds me a little bit of London, mainly because of his height,'' Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "He is extremely productive and is someone we feel can fit in with us. He will give us some added depth.''

While Blades likely was disappointed that he wasn't drafted until the sixth round, he preferred to concentrate on the positive aspects from the weekend. He'll have an excellent opportunity to play in the NFL for a class organization and future-Hall of Fame coach.

"I think I bring great instincts to the defense, a nose for the ball, making plays and tackling hard,'' Blades said. "I wanted to make a name for myself, and I wanted a brand new start in a new location when I decided to go to Pitt. I think I did that, and now I'm looking for the same things in the NFL.''

It looks like the Redskins are interested in giving him that chance.

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