As Rodrigo Blankenship embraced his family, seconds after being crowned the 2019 recipient of the Lou Groza Award, the emotions came out. Blankenship, whose journey from walk-on to star at the University of Georgia hit yet another high note. The kicker became the first UGA player to win the award, given to the nation’s best placekicker, and the first SEC player to do it since Texas A&M’s Randy Bullock claimed the trophy in 2011.
Soon after, Max Duffy, the 26-year-old Kentucky Wildcats punter, who played professionally back in his native Australian, became the first Kentucky player to win the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s best punter.
Blankenship and Duffy’s stories are why we all fall in love with college sports. Blankenship’s meteoric rise to become one of UGA’s most recognizable players, who all but certainly has a future in the NFL, is full of inspiration. And Duffy, who received a second chance at football when he joined Kentucky’s program, has grasped his opportunity with flying colors.
When Blankenship began his journey as a Bulldog, he was paying for his academics. He was redshirted in 2015 but eventually won over the starting job in 2017. In one of the most heartwarming moments of that season, Blankenship announced to his teammates that he was placed on scholarship after kicking the winning field goal in the team’s 20-19 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
But Blankenship did not stop there. Following the 2017 season, which saw the Bulldogs fall in the National Championship Game, he went on to finish 10th in the nation for total points scored (123), made 19 of 23 field-goal attempts, and was a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award.
This season, Blankenship became UGA’s all-time leading scorer after he scored 13 points against Texas A&M and had the chance to announce to the world during his acceptance speech that he hopes to one day join Chris Fowler up on stage and on-screen. His Digital and Broadcast Journalist degree should definitely come in handy
While the Bulldogs narrowly missed out on a chance to play in this season’s playoffs, Blankenship and his teammates still have business to take care of, as they face off against Baylor in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
As for Duffy, his journey from Perth to Lexington has had plenty of ups and downs, but the punter now hopes to complete his master’s degree in sports psychology and continue to play the sport he has loved since he first began at the age of 15.