Justin Blackmon might be a beast out on the football field, but when it comes to the virtual battlefields of Ubisoft’s “Ghost Recon,” he’s the one who usually ends up face down in the dirt.
“I used to play ‘Ghost Recon’ over at my buddy’s house and I would just get killed over and over,” Blackmon admits as I meet up with him in Manhattan just days before the NFL Draft. “I wasn’t the one dominating out there, I was the one who would always get shot first and need to get revived.
“I’m like Leeroy Jenkins charging into battle. I just hope my team can back me up and keep me alive.”
Jon Robinson: What is it about the Ghost Recon franchise that has you hooked?
Justin Blackmon: I play a lot of “Ghost Recon,” and I’ve played a lot of “Call of Duty” before, but from what I’ve played of the new game, the graphics in Ghost Recon are just so much more realistic, they’re ridiculous. All the technology that’s in this game, it just makes the whole game feel real. It’s almost like you’re actually out in battle. Then the way you can customize your weapons, down to the kind of trigger you want on your gun, it’s amazing. It’s a video game, but it just seems so real.
Jon Robinson: Are you a big gamer beyond the war games?
Justin Blackmon: I do like to play a lot of video games. It’s a great way to pass time, especially throughout this process of the NFL draft. I’ve caught myself sitting in front of the TV a lot more than I used to. Video games are a great way to get away. Playing a game online or just sitting down and playing with some buddies, it’s a great way to get things off your mind.
Jon Robinson: When you get that first NFL check, are you going to upgrade your gaming setup at home? Maybe buy a new TV or get some customized systems?
Justin Blackmon: Right now, I still play on this little TV with a big back on it and cords hanging out all over. [laughs] I have no plans to change. I’m happy with where my video game selection is at. It’s pretty bad, but if I upgrade, I might play too much.
Jon Robinson: What system do you prefer, 360 or PS3?
Justin Blackmon: I play both, but I’ve been playing the PS3 a lot more lately.
Jon Robinson: How much do you play online?
Justin Blackmon: I go online and play quite a bit. I always get beat when I play online, though. I can beat the computer a lot better.
Jon Robinson: Plus, when you get beat online, it’s always by some kid who acts like he’s seven with a squeaky voice.
Justin Blackmon: Yeah, seven years old. (In high voice) “Ha, I killed you!” It’s crazy, there are kids on there killing you that aren’t even old enough to buy the games.
Jon Robinson: What has the draft process been like for you so far?
Justin Blackmon: It’s been a lot of fun. Being able to travel and meet different coaches and see different team’s fields and facilities. And I get to do stuff like this, sit here and play some video games and have fun. The opportunities that you get being in this position are amazing.
Jon Robinson: Teams are notorious throughout the years of asking prospective draft picks some pretty crazy questions during interviews. What’s the strangest thing any team asked you?
Justin Blackmon: I got one question that was crazy. A team asked me if I left Paris at six o’clock and landed in the United States at six, how does that happen. It’s the time difference, obviously, but that was the dumbest question I had to deal with. I think they asked that of every person, but I never got why.
Jon Robinson: I grew up near Stanford and watched you torch them in the Fiesta Bowl. How important was that game helping break your name out to a more casual audience who might have tuned in to see Andrew Luck, but turned the game off talking about you?
Justin Blackmon: It was a very big game in general. It was the first time we ever made it to a BCS bowl, and playing a team like Stanford, we knew it was going to be a good game and a long night. For me, it wasn’t about breaking out. We were just really excited to be there and we really wanted to get that win, especially because we wanted to prove to everybody that we should’ve been in that championship game. We just tried to make a statement.
Jon Robinson: One of the cool things about being in the NFL is actually getting to star in the “Madden” video game. Any advice for EA Sports as they try to create your character?
Justin Blackmon: Just don’t make me slow. I’m not that slow. [laughs] No more of that 68 speed, man. In “NCAA Football” I started off with 68 speed.
Jon Robinson: 68 speed is for linemen and people on crutches.
Justin Blackmon: That was the year before I did good, but 68 speed? I was slower than most of the linemen. I would catch the ball and some lineman would run me down from behind. I was like, man, I’m not even playing the game anymore. I took it back.
Jon Robinson: What about your catch rating?
Justin Blackmon: I’m sure they’ll make it realistic, but the one thing everyone looks at is the speed. That’s the only thing anyone talks about. It is what it is.
Jon Robinson: When you were a 68 speed, was it something your teammates actually used to tease you about in the locker room?
Justin Blackmon: All the time. I got laughed at a lot. Especially from my friends back home who play the game. They would call me up and tell me how they threw me the ball, but then some lineman caught up to me and I got hurt on the first play. That’s how they had me in the game: slow and injury prone. [laughs] I just got hurt every time I caught the ball. I swear, I get hurt every time I touch the ball in the video game.
Jon Robinson: With the NFL Draft just a few days away, what’s the best advice anybody has given you about what life is going to be like once you join the league?
Justin Blackmon: The best advice is about managing your time. You’re going to have all this free time, because now, after football, you don’t have class to go to, so it’s really about managing your time wisely, studying film, and learning the playbook. You need to everything you can to make it easier for you on Sunday.
Jon Robinson: And when you get a free minute or two, you can always go back to “Ghost Recon.”
Justin Blackmon: I already planned that into the day. [laughs] Video game time. It’s already on the schedule.