Stamps hopeful Blackmon hungry to stay

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

When Tray Blackmon came out of high school, he was the top-ranked linebacker in the college recruiting class.

But real life hit the teenager before he joined the fun and games that were ahead.

His first child, Tray Jr., arrived when he was 18.

"I had to grow up fast," Blackmon said. "There was no more partying and hanging out with my friends."

As Blackmon attended college, he and now-wife Tonya kept building their family. Daughter Tania arrived a couple of years later, followed in succession by Takera and Tiara.

During his junior year at Auburn, Blackmon suffered a wrist injury and left the team to get a part-time job so he could bring in some money.

Once the season ended, so did Blackmon's college career. He signed with the Calgary Stampeders and has the ultimate motivation when training camp opens tomorrow: Feeding his family of four.

"They have to eat," said the 23-year-old. "The kids at home like to eat just like their daddy.

"They are so precious and mean so much to me, they add so much to my life, that it makes me smile just knowing they are depending on me."

Blackmon doesn't hide the fact his ultimate goal is to make the NFL.

Who can blame him? A football career is usually short and he needs to maximize his earning potential.

He faces a challenge to make the Stampeders.

As a middle linebacker, Blackmon will compete against veteran JoJuan Armour, sophomore Lemarcus Rowell and draft pick Tristan Black for a starting spot.

But when it comes to effort, expect no one to beat out Blackmon. He has more on the line than any of those other players.

"My kids are my motivation," Blackmon said. "My situation has made things more difficult for me, but it also has encouraged me to do more. I have to be better.

"If it was just you, you may not want to push yourself and sacrifice certain things.

"Having a family with kids ... it makes me more willing to sacrifice and not just think about myself. I know I have to constantly push harder because it's not about me."

Blackmon won't have long to make an impression and based on his history, practice isn't where he will get noticed anyway.

The 6-foot, 200-pounder has an impressive highlight reel of big hits, and that's where he hopes to make a difference.

The first pre-season outing will be important for him because there is no tackling in practices.

Right now, he's just trying to learn the system and make sure he is prepared for main camp.

No matter what happens, Blackmon doesn't regret leaving college to pursue a job.

It was a grind going to classes and having to worry about everything involved in being a parent.

"The average college student didn't have what I had on my plate," he said. "Not even the student-athletes.

"I wouldn't change any of it because it's made me who I am today. I'm proud of what I've been through. Whatever I've been through, I've made it out of it.

"Things have made me stronger."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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