ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has been named one of the 12 recipients of the National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete Award for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership, according to an announcement from the NFF and the College Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
With Blankenship’s selection, Georgia has now had a Southeastern Conference leading 14 NFF post-graduate scholars. In fact, the Bulldogs rank sixth nationally in the category with their first kicker being honored since Robert Etter in 1966.
Each of the players honored win an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and will be recognized at the 62ndNFF Annual Awards Dinner in New York City on Dec. 10. The honorees also comprise the list of finalists for the 2019 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the best scholar-athlete in the nation.
Blankenship is the only player from the SEC on the 12-man team and he is also the only special teams player on the squad. The 2018 Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team member and 2019 CBS Sports/Athlon Midseason All-American is the first Bulldog to garner the honor since quarterback Aaron Murray received the NFF award in 2013.
This marks only the second time in school history that Georgia has had an NFF Scholar Athlete as well as an Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member in the same year. In 2011, punter Drew Butler was included as a Scholar Athlete while tight end Aron White was on the Good Works Team.
The Bulldogs have now had 14 players in school history to earn this honor. While this is the first in the Kirby Smart era, there have now been five in the 2000s: Blankenship, Murray, punter Drew Butler (2011), quarterback David Greene (2004) and offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb (2002).
Etter in 1966 was the first Georgia winner. Tommy Lawhorne (1967), Billy Payne (1968), Tim Callaway (1969), Tommy Lyons (1970), Tom Nash (1971), Jeff Lewis (1977), Terry Hoage (1983) and Matt Stinchcomb (1998) are also Bulldogs who have been honored.
A former walk-on who was a member of the 2018 SEC Community Service Team and a 2018 UGA undergraduate degree winner, Blankenship has distinguished himself as exceptional both on and off the playing field.
Blankenship, a 6-1, 191-pound native of Marietta, Ga., is second in the league in scoring this year, averaging 9.4 points per game and has connected on 12-of-14 field goal attempts and all 30 of his PATs. The three-time 2019 SEC Special Teams Player of the Week has drilled three 50-yard field goals during his team’s 6-1 start and is the FBS active leader with a total of 65 made field goals.
A two-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist, Blankenship has connected on a school record 184 consecutive PATs, which ranks second in SEC history. Thanks in large part to his contribution, Georgia leads the nation with 275 PATs in a row dating back to 2014.
Blankenship’s journey has included kicking a game winner at Kentucky in 2016 as a redshirt freshman walk-on and drilling a 30 yarder to clinch the victory at No. 24 Notre Dame in 2017 before announcing to his teammates postgame that he had earned a scholarship.
Two of his more memorable moments in uniform were setting a Rose Bowl Game record with a 55-yard field goal during the double-overtime win over No. 2 Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Semifinal and hitting a 51 yarder in overtime of the National Championship Game less than two weeks later versus No. 4 Alabama.
Blankenship graduated Cum Laude (3.71 GPA) in December 2018 with a degree in Digital and Broadcast Journalism. He is currently enrolled in a Journalism Master’s program and has a 3.65 GPA. The 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-District selection was a 2018 winner of the Billy Payne Award for graduating with at least a 3.0 GPA and being on the football team for four years.
Georgia’s 19thAllstate AFCA Good Works Team member since 1992 has been just as stellar in the community. He is a member of the UGA Athletic Association’s Leadership Academy (L.E.A.D.) and 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.
The NFF’s National Scholar-Athlete program, launched in 1959, is the first initiative in history to award scholar-athletes postgraduate scholarships for their combined athletic, academic and leadership abilities. This year’s class members finds themselves in good company with past National Scholar-Athletes who include former Bulldog All-American and past chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, Billy Payne.
Each finalist will receive the postgraduate scholarship at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on in New York City, and one of the 12 will be announced as the 30th recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy. Named in honor of Bill Campbell, the award comes with a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship. Matt Stinchcomb (1998) is the only Bulldog to win the Campbell Trophy. A total distribution of $223,000 in scholarships will be awarded on Dec. 10.