Advertisement

VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Walk-on Blanton Makes Surprise Showing at Northridge

October 03, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Only in Don King's America could something like this happen to Lewis Blanton.

"I'm still in shock," Blanton said. "I guess I feel like Rudy."

Feel like him? Sure thing. Share many similarities? Hardly.

For starters, Blanton is a freshman linebacker at Cal State Northridge, a walk-on rapidly making his mark and seemingly destined for a bright future.

He's the one showered with praise by Matador coaches, who realize more every day they lucked out when Blanton came calling.

Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, he of movie fame and Notre Dame lore, was a dreamer who fulfilled a fantasy by playing 27 seconds for the Irish in a game his senior year in 1975.

He's the one Notre Dame coaches barely knew existed.

But to Blanton, 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds, the analogy fits. To him, it's the incredulity of it all more than the details that capture his imagination.

Blanton, who will start for the Matadors (2-1) against Southern Utah (1-2) today at 3:05 p.m. in a nonconference game at North Campus Stadium, is becoming an inspiration for longshots everywhere.

He was an All-Santa Fe League player at Murphy High the last two years, but that mattered little to college recruiters. None ever called or stopped by or sent serious letters.

It made some sense. Murphy, a small all-boys school in Los Angeles, is no football powerhouse. No team called the Nobles usually is, especially one starving for facilities and players.

So Blanton fell through the cracks.

"Last year we had 20-some players," Blanton said. "We didn't even have a field to practice on. We had to walk like six blocks to a park. We played home games at Dorsey, so every game was a road game."

The lack of interest from college teams didn't dissuade Blanton. He called Northridge Coach Ron Ponciano in the summer, was invited to camp and surprised everyone, even himself.

"I was kind of skeptical," Blanton said. "I was biting my nails every day, wondering if I was going to get cut. I was praying a lot."

Perhaps divine intervention helped Blanton make the team as a nonscholarship player, but Northridge linebackers coach Kevin Singleton points to more tangible reasons.

"He probably would have broken into the lineup eventually because he's very talented," Singleton said. "He's a hard worker and learns fast. He's always asking questions and I appreciate that rather than going out and messing up.

"He is one of those diamonds in the rough. We coaches think we know everything and this kind of thing happens. We get someone who comes out of the woodwork."

Blanton was a backup in the first two games, but last week started at middle linebacker in place of Cos Abercrombie, who suffered a broken jaw at Northern Arizona on Sept. 19 and is sidelined for the year.

In Northridge's 38-35 victory over Eastern Washington, Blanton had a game-high 13 tackles. He ranks second on the team with 23 tackles, two behind free safety Jeremy Golden.

Despite his meteoric rise with the Matadors, Blanton is keeping things in perspective.

"Out here, it's like a classroom," Blanton said. "I learn every day. Something new pops up all the time."

Blanton hopes his football fortunes snowball into one of his ambitions--to be enjoying a lavish lifestyle in about 10 years.

"I want to make a lot of money to take care of my family, show my gratitude," Blanton said. "I don't see a point in hoarding it all for myself.

"But I want fancy cars, a nice home. I want to live the life of Riley."

Some might say he already is.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Southern Utah vs. Cal State Northridge

What: Nonconference game

When: Today, 3:05 p.m.

Where: North Campus Stadium

Fast fact: Matadors have won seven in a row at home.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|