INDIANAPOLIS — Rookie Rodrigo Blankenship is, without a doubt, comfortable in his own quirky skin.
The Indianapolis Colts kicker flashed a big smile when asked what he did on Friday night to take his mind off awaiting his fate in roster cuts.
“I just spent it building some LEGO sets and just talking to my girlfriend,” Blankenship said with a chuckle in a Tuesday Zoom video call. “That was about all I could do to take my mind off of it and not think about it too much, and not let it be something that affects me too much.”
Specifically, he built a LEGO Ferrari car and a LEGO Star Wars set.
“Nothing crazy,” he said, after laughing again.
The undrafted, 23-year-old rookie from Marietta, Ga., arrived with a cult fan following from his days at Georgia. His followers refer to him as “Hot Rod” and “Rec Spec,” the latter in reference to his thick, dark-rimmed glasses.
Flashy nicknames are one thing, but LEGOs? Seriously?
“I think I got my first LEGO set in like 2007,” he said. “I’ve always loved ‘em and have collected them ever since then. So yeah, going on 13 years now.”
The amusing hobby aside, Blankenship is quite humble. He said he didn’t who the Colts would choose after “an incredibly tight” kicking competition with incumbent Chase McLaughlin. He prayed about it the night before he got the call and set his mind to accept that regardless of which way it ended up, he was grateful for having the opportunity to compete.
After receiving the good news in a call from special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, Blankenship phoned his girlfriend, then his parents.
“It was definitely some incredible news to hear,” he said. “I’m just incredibly blessed to be here right now.”
The LEGOs did the trick, too.
“It wasn’t a sleepless night,” he said. “Regardless of what was going to happen, I was at peace. I came to the realization that this opportunity was a blessing in and of itself, and that I just needed to be grateful for everything that had happened and to be grateful for whatever decision was made, one way or the other. It was just part of God’s bigger plans for me. So that’s how I treated it and that’s how handled it and felt about it.”
Blankenship acknowledged that kicking in the SEC against some of the nation’s top programs helped prepare him for the challenge of making the Colts roster. Just like when he arrived at Georgia as a walk-on who had to earn his scholarship, Blankenship had to prove himself all over again in the NFL.
“I like to say that we played in the best conference in college football in the SEC,” he said. “I know that some other conferences would like to have their two cents about it, but I really believe that the best football in the country is played there. Over the last four years kicking, I definitely played in some pretty incredible environments, some pretty incredible stadiums, jam-packed with fans screaming at the top of their lungs, it’s so loud you can’t hear yourself think.”
As a senior, Blankenship earned the Lou Groza Award, bestowed upon college football’s top kicker.
What else should fans know about the new Colts kicker?
“I’m a big kid at heart really,” he said, smiling. “I’ve collected LEGOs for a really long time. I’ve also been into Star Wars and Marvel Comics. I’m a huge kind of superhero geek about all that kind of stuff. Also, Transformers, just all that kind of like sci-fi, nerdy, geeky kind of stuff.
“I guess I would also just want everyone to know that I have an incredible girlfriend, Logan, who has been my rock and has been a huge part of the reason that I’m here right now. I have an incredible family that’s supported me through thick and thin, and has been a huge part of why I’m here.”
He was asked what his nerves will be like at 1 p.m., Sunday, when the Colts open the regular season at Jacksonville.
“I’m hoping that I can just be a cool customer,” Blankenship said.
Perhaps he’ll bring some more LEGOs along for the road trip.
(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)