The Times examines the best prospects ahead of the NFL draft from April 23-25.
Jimmy Blacklock was a pioneer and Globetrotter, the second African American to play basketball at the University of Texas in the early 1970s and a dazzling point guard and dribbler for the 1974 Harlem basketball team to 1987.
His son, Ross Blacklock, a Christian defensive tackle from Texas who should be a late first-round pick in the NFL draft, played a few hoops at high school in Missouri City, Texas, but never wanted to follow in the footsteps of his acclaimed father .
“I always used to make mistakes in basketball games,” said Blacklock, a 6 foot 3 inch 290 pound junior at the NFL in February. “I was coming out of the football season and going straight to basketball. Sometimes I would be too aggressive and say to myself, “Dang, this is just too sweet for me.”
“It’s a good sport, and I’m happy to have gotten into it, but I just like the physics of football, hitting, strength, power, whatever you have to put into it. You must be tough. “
Blacklock, who was also on the high school baseball, athletics and swimming teams, said his father “never really pushed me to become a basketball player.” Football, which he started playing at the age of 5, “is my first love,” he said.
The two were inseparable, except for a seven-month stretch in 2018. After starting 14 games, recording 27 tackles (6½ for loss) and two sacks, and earning first-year All-American honors at TCU in 2017, Blacklock tore his left Achilles apart during a contactless exercise the following summer and missed his entire second season.
“It was a little difficult at first, but I just thought you had to go through something to get back to where you want to be,” said Blacklock. “You cannot mop up or be sad or angry with the world.”
Blacklock devoted himself to his rehab program and a new diet, giving up the sweets and fruit juices he wanted and adding more protein and lean vegetables. He went from 330 pounds in first year to 315 pounds in the year he lost an injury to 290 pounds leaner and more muscular last season.
He returned to training in seven months, two months faster than expected, and was clearly at full power for a 2019 season in which he had 40 tackles (nine for loss) and 3½ sacks in 12 starts and got the first All-Big 12 honors team.
Blacklock, who can play tackle or nose, performed well on the combine, with a 4.9-second 40-yard dash and a 29-inch vertical jump. He is a relentless pass accelerator with elite lateral speed, although his technique and his use of the hand require work. He showed a good rushing instinct.
“I haven’t had a problem with my Achilles since the day I tore it apart,” said Blacklock. “It was not a problem – no setbacks, nothing. … I’m not an injury prone guy. If you join the NFL, you can’t have an injury list. Fortunately, I didn’t only one. “