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Palm Coast Saturday, Apr. 28, 2012 8 years ago

Bigger than football

by: Andrew OBrien Contributing Writer

During college football season, I’d watch my beloved Florida Gators football team. But when their game ended, I knew exactly when Oklahoma State was playing, and for good reason: I wanted to see what Justin Blackmon, the stud wide receiver for the Cowboys, was capable of.

Well, on Thursday night, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded their No. 7 overall pick to Tampa Bay and moved up two spots to nab Blackmon as the fifth-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Now, I’ll get to see what Blackmon is capable of in 16 games next season — and hopefully many more beyond that.

Drafting a WR prospect was a must for the Jags. The only 1,000-yard receiver in franchise history was Jimmy Smith.

However, it wasn’t watching Blackmon pluck ball after ball out of the air or snag 38 touchdowns in two seasons at Oklahoma State that impressed me most. Don’t get me wrong, those are all perks, but it was watching a five-minute TV segment during the college football season that hooked me.

At an Oklahoma State Coaches vs. Cancer basketball game in the winter of 2010, Blackmon met Olivia Hamilton. It wasn’t even a year since Hamilton was diagnosed with leukemia.

They became pals. Since, the relationship has continued to grow.

After the draft Thursday night, I popped open my laptop when I got home from my softball game. (It was the first round of the playoffs, and we got creamed.)

I searched for the video on YouTube, which can be found by searching “Justin Blackmon little girl,” or click here

Regardless of how many times I watch it, my eyes watered.

It’s amazing to think that a 22-year-old kid who left college early to pursue football still understands there are bigger things in life. It’s wonderful to think an athlete can make a little girl smile, even as she battles cancer.

Justin Blackmon, who has yet to catch a pass in an NFL game, has already positively affected Olivia Hamilton’s life. Her family’s life. My life.

After a rough game, it’s refreshing to see what Blackmon stands for. To remember that a slow-pitch softball game isn’t the end of the world.

And the pink bracelet that Blackmon wears in honor of Hamilton says it all: “Live, laugh beats A.L.L.” (acute lymphoblastic leukemia)

Hamilton, who is now in fourth grade, is in clinical remission.

Welcome to Jacksonville, Justin Blackmon. 

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