Texas Tech hosts Oklahoma State on Nov. 2 in what is expected to be the biggest home game of the season for the Red Raiders. That same weekend, eight former Red Raiders will be inducted into the Texas Tech Athletic Hall of Fame/Hall of Honor. Among that group is former wide receiver Rodney Blackshear who wore the scarlet and black from 1987-91.
A decade before Tech adopted the spread-formation, pass-happy offense, Blackshear caught 97 passes for 1,980 yards and 14 touchdowns over the course of his career and was a two-time All-Southwest Conference selection.
Of all his accomplishments and contributions as a wide receiver, two stand out to him the most.
“My friends call me the 12th Man killer,” Blackshear said. “I returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Texas A&M that basically destroyed the 12th Man. They hadn’t given up a kick-return touchdown in College Station since like 1939.”
The Aggies’ kickoff-coverage unit for home games consisted of non-scholarship players, representative of the A&M 12th Man tradition, until Blackshear broke through for a touchdown. Shortly after that, it was reduced to one walk-on per home game from the 12th Man pool.
“I got some hate mail from College Station,” Blackshear said. “Once we returned the kickoff against them, they got rid of the 12th man kickoff team for the rest of that season, which was the end of ’90, then all of ’91, then in ’92 they brought it back.”
The top memory for Blackshear makes the list for a completely different reason. His father had never attended one of his football games until the final game of his senior year, on the road against the University of Houston. That day made history for Blackshear, while he re-wrote history for Texas Tech.
He caught five passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns, one covering 95 yards — still a school record — and the other 80.
“I wanted to go out with a bang and couldn’t have drawn up a better script than that,” Blackshear said. “It was the first game my dad ever saw me play in person. It was a great feeling to put on that type of show for him and for my family as well.
“He had never seen me play in person. I played arena football in Houston and he never came. That was the one game he came to see me play, so that’s a memory I’ll always have.”
Blackshear’s performance in the 52-46 victory set the Southwest Conference record for receiving yards in a game and stood as a Texas Tech record until Joel Filani beat it by four yards against Kansas State in 2005. While it no longer stands as a school record, it is still grounds for bragging rights among long-time friends.
“When we come up to the games to tailgate now, we don’t call each other by name. We call each other by those numbers,” Blackshear said. “I’m 251 because I had 251 yards, Donnie Hart’s nickname is 241 and Lloyd Hill’s is 222 because that’s how many yards he had (in his best game).”
Following his days as a Red Raider, Blackshear signed an NFL free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins, then tried out for the Canadian Football League, before spending eight years playing arena football.
Four of Blackshear’s seasons in the Arena Football League were a reunion of sorts. Blackshear played for the Houston Thunderbears of the Arena Football League with former Red Raiders Robert Hall, Sammy Walker, Lloyd Hill, Verone McKinley, Tyrone Thurman and Kevin Jackson before closing out his arena career with an Arena Bowl Championship as part of the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Rampage.
To this day, Blackshear still spends a good chunk of his time around the game of football.
“I’ve always loved what I did,” he said. “Getting back in the game after my playing career wasn’t a question. My first job was a student assistant at Tech. It wasn’t a paid job so you’ve got to have a passion for it.”
After serving as a student assistant under Mike Leach’s staff, Blackshear also spent time on Art Briles’ staff at Houston, and spent several seasons coaching arena football in Georgia, Lubbock, Amarillo, Abilene, Belton and in the Rio Grande Valley, before entering the high school and junior high ranks.
“Last year I coached the secondary at Jersey Village High School,” Blackshear said. “This year my daughter is playing volleyball and now I’m the offensive coordinator at Sam Houston Middle School in Irving ISD. Coaching high school football or college football you have no free time. Coaching middle school, my games are on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I can support my daughter.
“Being around kids, I’ve tried to stay in the best shape that I can. The kids have energy and I try to bring that same type of energy because the kids feed off of it. We’ve got to have fun doing what we do because these kids put in a lot of hours to play in high school and college. You can’t get too excited to play for a coach that’s boring and dull. As a player and a coach, I feel like that’s what I’ve brought to the game in my 44 years.”
Eleven years have come and gone since Blackshear first started coaching. Now he has the privilege of watching players he once coached lead his, and their, alma mater.
“I went to the game at SMU and I could tell it was a different team,” Blackshear said. “It’s a different vibe you get with the passion that Kliff has, that Mike Smith has, Kevin Curtis, Trey Haverty, all of those guys. So much has changed since I was there. Kliff loves Lubbock, he loves Tech and he’s had success in his career. The kids feed off of it. When you’ve got that going for the program, it makes kids want to jump on board and be a part of it.
“It makes it easier for players to want to play for those types of coaches, who were not only great players but they now coach at the place they love. I coached at U of H and I loved it, but it was a different kind of love.”
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