Leominster native Rob Blanchflower, a graduate of St. John's and tight end at UMass, was selected in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL Draft this afternoon. And with it, there is a bit of history.
Blanchflower and Green Bay Packers third round pick Richard Rodgers are former teammates at the Shrewsbury-based St. John's High. This marks the first time two former Massachusetts high school teammates have been taken in the same draft since 2003.
Earlier this week, we profiled Blanchflower's unique background. Among other things, Blanchflower's uncle once set the NCAA men's lacrosse career scoring record at Army, and he also took out a $15,000 student loan to play on a partial scholarship at UMass. With many draftees on full athletic scholarship from the start of their college careers, it is rare to see legitimate draft prospects with this type of debt.
Steelers tight ends coach James Daniel spoke with the media on Blanchflower. Here is the transcript:
James Daniel: We drafted Rob Blanchflower with our seventh-round pick. Rob was a guy who we had targeted. We brought him in for a visit, and I spent a lot of time getting to know him. I think he’s got a chance to be helpful for us being a part of this football team.
What does he do well that caught your eye? "He has a high level of aggression. He’s a two-phase guy, which is different than a lot of the guys you have coming at you right now. We look for guys that are either going to be run blockers or they’re going to be pass receivers. He’s adept at both of them so that is something that interests us in him. He’s playing in a multiple formation offense so that gave us a chance to look at him in a lot of things."
Does he have a nasty little attitude when he plays? "Somewhat. That’s usually what attracts me to them, so yes."
You kept four tight ends on the roster last year. Is that the number you’re going to keep this year? "I would think that would be the decision that they would make, but that will probably depend on some of the other positions. We had four guys last year, but two of them were carrying a heavy load on special teams. That is what I try to emphasize on guys, for a tight end the number of reps that you’re going to get. The first two are going to get a lot of them and if three and four can do some things for the special teams that helps their chances of making the football team."
Did Rob play any special teams at UMass? "He did a little bit of it, but he played all year with some factors that probably kept him from being a special teams guy. I think he’s special teams capable though."
Did he play with injuries in college? "He had sports hernia surgery after the season, so he played with some muscle problems during the season."