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Cameo Blankenship: “Thinking Outside the Box”

By Barry Every
SouthernPigskin.com
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As a junior he recorded 84 tackles, seven TFL’s, two sacks, two, FR’s and one INT on his way to being named Second Team All-Region.

“Unlike most teenagers he doesn’t care what his peers think. He is a high order thinker that is able to think outside the box. He is not a cookie-cutter teenager and he is simply entertaining to be around. Most importantly he is very respectful to others and just fun to be around.”
~Telfair HC Matt Burleson

In 2012 Matt Burleson took over a McRae (Ga.) Telfair County football program that had gone paltry (1-19) over the previous two years. Since that time the Trojans have never won fewer than four games in a season, while making three playoff appearances.

Unfortunately Telfair County competes in GHSA Region 2-A.This Region includes Homerville (Ga.) Clinch County, which has won three of the last four State Titles in GHSA-A (Public) and Ocilla (Ga.) Irwin County, state runner-ups four of the last five seasons.

Too add insult to injury, the Max Preps Power Poll, used to decide which teams qualify for the GHSA-A playoffs, has had Telfair County the first team out on three different occasions over the last seven seasons. So having a realistic shot at winning double digit games or making a long playoff run has been near impossible.

The Trojans do bring back a very talented squad that could make serious noise in 2019. One of the returning standouts is 6-foot-1, 195-pound three-sport megastar Cameo Blankenship. As a junior he recorded 84 tackles, seven TFL’s, two sacks, two, FR’s and one INT on his way to being named Second Team All-Region.

“Cameo does a lot for us, he is more than just an inside linebacker that makes all the calls,” Burleson said. “He also plays some H-Back and slot for us; believe it or not he has great hands. He does a little of everything for us and seldom comes off the field; even if he does he’ll be begging to get back in two plays later. He just simply wants to be in the middle of the action and with Cameo on the field we have a chance for great things to happen.”

Blankenship is more than every down player at Telfair County. This past February he captured the GHSA-A (Public) 182-pound wrestling crown, finishing the season unbeaten at (51-0). As a sophomore he finished third in the 170-pound weight class and second as a frosh in the 160-pound class. As a senior he does not plan to cut weight and could possibly wrestle in the 220-pound weight class.

He is also one of the top baseball players in South Georgia having been named Preseason All-State. The three-year starter is currently batting .370 with nine stolen bases through 15 games. He is also 2-0 as a pitcher with a 0.60 ERA and 13 strikeouts through 11.2 innings.

“The biggest thing about Cameo is his uniqueness; he is his own person,” Burleson said. “Unlike most teenagers he doesn’t care what his peers think. He is a high order thinker that is able to think outside the box. He is not a cookie-cutter teenager and he is simply entertaining to be around. Most importantly he is very respectful to others and just fun to be around.”

Blankenship is no slouch in the classroom or weight room either. He boasts a 315-pound bench press, 450-pound squat and a 285-power clean. Academically he holds a 4.0 GPA and has scored an 1190 on the first take of the SAT. He is scheduled to retake the test in May with a goal of going over the 1250 plateau.

His lone offer at his time is from Columbia. He is also receiving heavy interest from Arkansas State, Cornell, Furman, Gardner-Webb, Georgia State, Harvard, Howard, Liberty, Mercer, Notre Dame, Princeton, Samford and Stetson.

Last year he camped at Georgia State and took part in the  LaGrange Champions Elite Camp. He is mapping out a more aggressive camp circuit this spring. Blankenship has unofficially visited Gardner-Webb, Georgia State and Mercer. He is currently in the process of setting an official visit with Columbia and unofficial visits at Arkansas State and Liberty.

“He has several FBS schools that are interested in him, but right now it’s mostly FCS schools,” Burleson said. “He is opening a lot of doors because of his grades and test score. He could be a 3-4 field backer or a will linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. The majority of schools showing interest may be FCS, but Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern and Georgia State have inquired about his talents.”

Recruiting will usually take care of itself as long as the potential prospect takes care of business in the classroom and on the football field. But what must Blankenship accomplish as a player to guide Telfair County to gridiron greatness?

“Coach always says your team is only as good as your seniors make it,” Blankenship said. “I’m looking to take the reins and whip everyone into shape. I really have to take more of a leadership role with my team because we have a lot of talent. We just need our seniors to lead.”

Though he projects as an outside linebacker at the next level, Blankenship will be anchoring down the middle of the Trojan defense again this fall. He will also play some slot as well as the hammer position, which is a fullback/H-Back.

“Versatility is my best asset as a football player,” Blankenship claims. “I’m a utilitarian and it doesn’t matter what job needs to be done, just put me there and I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”

I’ve stated on hundreds of occasions that versatility is the key to long term success in football. Blankenship not only believes this, he has taken this concept as his mantra. College coaches looking for a dynamic athlete with stellar academics must take the time to find McRae, Georgia on the map. There they will surely find an athlete with the skillset to get the job done regardless the challenge.