Life hasn't always been a bed of roses for Angelo Blackson. But to his credit the talented senior has taken full advantage of life at Red Lion Christian Academy (Bear, Del.), where he's bloomed into a fine student-athlete thanks to a great support system.
It has been at the small private school in Bear that the 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive lineman has been pushed to perform at his best both in the classroom and on the football field.
The hard work has paid off for Blackson, who last spring verbally accepted a football scholarship from Auburn University, a place he says felt like home the minute he stepped on campus.
"I went down there for a visit and it was awesome," Blackson said. "I had the chance to go to a lot of other places, but when I went to Auburn I just felt comfortable. It felt like home away from home."
Home for Blackson is in the city of Wilmington, where his sister has raised him since he was 7 years old.
Admittedly, life hasn’t always been easy for him, but Blackson says it was an unfortunate situation at Newark (Del.) that was pivotal in his development as a student-athlete.
Blackson enrolled at Newark with hopes of playing football in the storied program, but was declared ineligible because he didn't get his physical form in on time. He looks back at that disappointing moment, which led to his transfer to Red Lion Christian, as a difference-maker in his life.
"More than anywhere else Red Lion helped me," said Blackson, who also plays varsity basketball. "The teachers give you all the extra help you need and the football coaches are on you and don’t let you fail. We're in school all day and then have to go to a hard practice. The coaches wouldn’t let you quit and taught me discipline, mentally and physically, through football."
This summer Blackson is working out four nights a week in the weight room with his teammates. He says his goal for the team is for them to bond together and work toward winning a state championship. And while a title might be considered lofty for a young program that made just its first state tournament appearance last year, Red Lion Christian coach Eric Day is confident that if anyone can lead the school to its first state championship, it’s Blackson.
"He’s a quiet leader, which is surprising, but he works hard,” Day said. "Usually, you have to push kids who are that talented. You don’t have to do that with Angelo. He genuinely works hard with every rep, every play. He leads by example."
Despite having already committed to Auburn, Blackson is determined to get even better this season. After gaining nearly 50 pounds as the result of an offseason weightlifting program, he plans to focus on the finer aspects of his position this fall.
"I want to make myself better from now until the end of the season," Blackson said. "I want to improve my speed and endurance and get stronger. I just want to get better."
"Angelo has all the physical skills necessary to be successful in college," Day said. "Now what he needs to refine are his techniques. That and continue to become stronger. There are a lot of guys his size in the Southeast Conference who are fast, so it’s his strength that he has to continue to build."
Blackson takes life seriously, realizing that for him to reach his ultimate goal of playing in the NFL his toughest challenges are ahead of him. He plans to major in Building Science at Auburn.
"I’m not going to have the same support I get from my sister now and living the lifestyle that I live," he said. "I’ll need to become my own man down there and adjust to living my own lifestyle, not my sister’s."
Blackson comes across as serious and focused, but he also has a sense of humor. He thinks he will fit right in at Auburn.
"They eat a lot down there," Blackson said. "Two things I do great – play football and eat. They do them both very well down there."
William Penn (New Castle, Del.) junior defensive back Khaliq Gatson has been invited to Football University’s Top Gun event to be held July 21-24 in Williamsburg, Va. He will be among 900 players invited from across the country. … Archmere Academy (Claymont, Del.) senior Rachel Gillen will play in the Under Armour All-America Softball Game for the second consecutive year.
Jon Buzby is the sports columnist for the Newark Post, a freelance writer, and occasional color commentator for the 1290am The Ticket High School Football Game of the Week. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.