When Julian Blackmon tore his ACL nine and a half months ago, many people were curious how the injury and its subsequent recovery was going to affect the all-American safety and the upcoming NFL draft.
It was the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon last December when Blackmon went down following the non-contact injury. That meant that not only would he miss Utah's bowl game, he would miss the NFL combine and Utah's pro day (which was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
With somebody who relies on his athleticism as much as Blackmon does, there were some whispers in the NFL world that he may fall to the final day of the draft — all of this despite originally being projected as a second-rounder prior to his injury.
So when the Indianapolis Colts' selection came up in the third round, they knew it was a no-brainer to select Blackmon despite the injury and knowledge that he may not be ready until October.
“I didn’t want to lose him behind us. We thought there was a chance he would be there in the third. We were worried that he wouldn’t be there in the fourth,” Colts GM Chris Ballard said after Day 2 of the draft. “He’s got the ACL injury, we know that he won’t be ready probably until late August, early September which means that he might not even really help us until October.”
It appears Ballard's timeline was wrong.
Blackmon made his NFL debut this past Sunday in Indianapolis' 28-11 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in week 2 of the season. After logging a DNP in last week's game, Blackmon came onto the field following an injury to starting safety Malik Hooker.
He finished the game with multiple tackles and two big pass break-ups, including one that led to an interception by fellow safety Khari Willis.
“He was all around the ball, all around the ball. I mean just from my eye watching the game, he played great,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said after Sunday’s game. “He made the one play on the Cover 2 down the middle – that looked like it’s going to be a big play for their offense, and he breaks it up, gets his head and hat on the ball. Those are the instincts that we saw on film. We know that that’s the player that he’s going to be.”
Following the conclusion of the game, it was determined that Hooker would miss the rest of the season with an achilles injury. So now Indianapolis' vaunted defense, and its talented secondary, will only be as successful as Blackmon.
He's expected to take on a much bigger role now with Hooker's injury — and he's ready for it. After all, Blackmon is somebody who wasn't supposed to play a meaningful snap until October. Now he'll be starting in his second-ever NFL game.
“However, he just deserves so much credit. Number one, physically what he had to come back from,” Reich said. “Number two, just mentally staying ready. He couldn’t practice for so long, and he wasn’t even able to participate in walk-thrus because of how we had him designated. A credit to him staying in it mentally. Then you could just tell the competitor in him showed up today on game day.”
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