NATIONAL SIGNING DAY

Crestwood's Blanding will play football at Limestone

By EDDIE LITAKER
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 2/9/18

Sometimes having someone tell them that they can't do something is all the motivation that a person needs to exceed beyond their wildest dreams or expectations.

That was the case for Crestwood High School North-South linebacker Camron Blanding, …

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NATIONAL SIGNING DAY

Crestwood's Blanding will play football at Limestone

Posted

Sometimes having someone tell them that they can't do something is all the motivation that a person needs to exceed beyond their wildest dreams or expectations.

That was the case for Crestwood High School North-South linebacker Camron Blanding, who had to wait until his senior season to finally break into the Knights' starting lineup and now has signed a letter of intent to continue his football playing days at Limestone College in Gaffney.

Not too bad for someone who was told at a young age that he shouldn't participate in football or any other contact sports.

"Transitioning from middle school to high school was kind of tough for me, but I never quit," said Blanding, who signed with the Saints on Wednesday, National Signing Day. "I kept pushing and, unfortunately, I didn't start my first three years of high school. I was on JV for two years, then started out on varsity my 11th grade year. So I had no choice but to come out here my senior year and put a little something on for South Carolina to put Crestwood in the paper doing great things. I was told that I wasn't going to be able to play football because I have a condition where I'm not allowed to play contact sports, but I pushed through it and continue to do great things."

Blanding said that he has received "constant motivation" from his high school head coach, Roosevelt Nelson, a man who Blanding said "never gave up on me.

"He kept pushing me, because he knew what I was capable of," Blanding said of Nelson. "I've known him since I was in the sixth grade. I never thought I was going to be able to be coached by him, because he was at Lakewood, but one of the things that stood out to me about my head coach was he wants everybody to be great. No matter who you are and what kind of person you are, he's still going to do his best to try to help you and put you in a position to either play on the next level or at least go to college and get an education."

While Blanding was singing the praises of his coach, Nelson said he plans to hold Blanding up as an example of the power of perseverance for future Knights who might face similar struggles attempting to establish themselves on the football field.

"Camron is a young man that came in, he waited his time," Nelson said. "He didn't quit, didn't give up like a lot of kids nowadays do when it's not working out for them. A lot of kids now want microwave success, but Camron Blanding is a kid that definitely gritted it out, worked and waited his chance. He got an opportunity, took advantage of it and had an outstanding season for us. This year our defense gave up right at 16 points a game, and Camron Blanding was a huge part of that with his leadership. He's not the most vocal individual in the world, but at the same time he leads by example. He was on time every practice, worked his tail off, committed himself in the weight room, committed himself in the classroom and he did an outstanding job.

"I'm going to definitely always use Camron Blanding's story as an example when I'm teaching kids, when I'm coaching kids from this day forward because of what he did. By not starting a single game until his senior year, being able to play in the North-South game at the end, and also being able to sign a letter of intent to play college football, that's outstanding."

Blanding said the warm reception that he received during his visit to Limestone made all the difference in his decision to commit to and sign with the NCAA Division II school.

"I went there for a visit and they treated me nice," Blanding said. "They treated me like I was already a senior at Limestone. It's a beautiful campus, very friendly. The coaches love me. I felt that vibe from them, that this what my right choice to pick."

Blanding knows from his family history that having the opportunity to play college football is not something to be taken for granted.

"Mainly, I just want to make my parents (Bernard and Karen Blanding) proud because my dad, unfortunately he couldn't make it to the next level because of his back injury," Blanding said. "... I just want to make my community and my family proud of me, because I've been talking about this since I was little, to be able to sit down at a table and sign a letter of intent to go off to a school. So I'm just happy to go somewhere and make their team a better team than the previous years."

Blanding made the most of his one season starting for Nelson and the Knights. Nelson said Blanding closed his senior campaign with 90 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, along with eight quarterback sacks. Blanding, who also served as the team's long snapper and short snapper on special teams, earned honors as the Sumter Touchdown Club and team defensive player of the year while serving as a team captain. Blanding was also named as an all-region selection at linebacker.