ATHENS, Ga. – In a surprise presentation at Barrow Elementary School on Wednesday morning, junior place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was recognized as one of 11 players in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to be named to the 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
Following Blankenship’s reading of Dreaming of the Redcoat Band to the classroom of teacher Abby Brink, the Marietta, Georgia native was greeted with the award by an Allstate representative, Merryn Walker, an insurance agent in Athens. Allstate also presented Barrow Elementary with a new collection of books for the classroom.
“Allstate is so proud to partner with schools to recognize student-athletes that go above and beyond the call to help those in their community,” Walker said. “Rodrigo’s done a great job reading to the students here at Barrow Elementary and going above and beyond…It is such an honor. I’ve been an agent for 19 years. For UGA to win this 19 times, that’s just great. That shows that UGA has a strong, long-lasting commitment to giving back.”
Georgia leads the nation in Allstate AFCA Good Works Team honorees with 19 since the award’s inception in 1992. Blankenship’s induction marks the fifth-consecutive by a Bulldog, and the seventh in the last eight years.
The Bulldogs’ previous Good Works Team honorees are Alec Millen in 1992, Travis Jones in 1993, Brian Smith in 1995, Matt Stinchcomb in 1997 and 1998, Brett Millican in 2000, Jon Stinchcomb in 2001, David Greene in 2003, D.J. Shockley in 2005, Quentin Moses in 2006, Kelin Johnson in 2007, Jeff Owens in 2009, Aron White in 2011, Aaron Murray in 2012, Chris Conley in 2014, Malcolm Mitchell in 2015, Jeb Blazevich in 2016 and Aaron Davisin 2017.
Blankenship, a Digital and Broadcast Journalism major and native of Marietta, Ga., is the only player from the Southeastern Conference on the FBS 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which was officially announced on September 13.
“When I found out I was on the team, it was just a really awesome and really special moment, because I know Georgia’s had guys that have made the team,” Blankenship said. “Jeb (Blazevich), Aaron Davis, there have been some other guys that I really look up to as a model of how to give back to the community. That was a really big moment for me, to find out that I was going to be on the team for this year. I had no idea that I was going to be getting an award, so this has been a really special day for me.”
A 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-District selection, Blankenship has volunteered for a variety of community service opportunities during his time in Athens. The member of the UGA Athletic Association’s Leadership Academy (L.E.A.D.) has given his time to the following activities and many more: spokesperson for “No More,” which is a public service announcement against domestic violence and sexual assault; visitation at Camp Sunshine, which is a camp that provides support programs for children with cancer and their families; volunteer for the “Empty Bowl” luncheon, which is a luncheon sponsored by the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia where hand-painted ceramic bowls done by the football players were part of a silent auction to raise funds for needy families; and volunteer for the Home Runs for Hometown Rivals, which is a softball game at UGA’s Foley Field for Special Olympians.
Named to the 2018 Lou Groza Award Watch List, the 2018 Preseason All-American has drilled 40 of 49 career field goal attempts, including 6-for-8 this season. He stands fifth on the NCAA FBS active career leaders’ list for Field Goal Percentage at 82 percent. Blankenship has connected on 111 consecutive PATs since 2016 and has 118 kickoff touchbacks in his career, including 30 in 2018, which leads the NCAA. He is the school record holder in the category for a single season after registering 67 last year. After claiming second place in career touchbacks with 118, Blankenship only trails Kevin Butler in first with 169.
Blankenship proved pivotal during the Bulldogs’ run to last season’s SEC title and spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. After hitting both of his attempts in the SEC Championship Game, Blankenship recorded a career-long 55 yarder during the win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl Game and a 51 yarder versus Alabama in the National Championship.
He has twice been named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week, most recently claiming the recognition honor this season with two field goals of 44 and 45 yards and five PATs in the 41-17 rout of the 24th-ranked South Carolina during the Bulldogs’ league opener on the road.
“If you would have told me two years ago when we were about to get on the plane to go to Missouri that I would make three field goals with seven touchbacks, I would have done a triple backflip,” Blankenship said. “This season, that’s not quite good enough. Just looking at the journey that I’ve had up to this point, I appreciate where I’ve come from, but also I’m at a point where I’m still trying to improve and do everything that I can to be the best that I can be for this team.”
For 27 years, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) has recognized a select group of college football players committed to making a difference in their communities. There were also 11 combined players chosen from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Divisions II, III and the NAIA.
The 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team will be invited to New Orleans to participate in a special community service project ahead of the 2019 Allstate Sugar Bowl, where the entire team will also be recognized on the field during a halftime presentation.
The Bulldogs return to Sanford Stadium on Saturday against Tennessee. The game is slated for a 3:30 pm start time on CBS.