Blackmon’s return a big deal for OSU
STILLWATER — Brandon Weeden never truly expected to see the other half of his famous touchdown connection last weekend.
Rumors swirled. Some believed them. Weeden wanted to, but didn’t.
The text message Weeden received from a buddy four hours before Oklahoma State’s 24-14 win over Baylor made Weeden a believer.
Justin Blackmon — a larger-than-life wide receiver in OSU’s history — was back.
“I was shocked, but I was pleasantly surprised,” said Weeden, who didn’t actually see Blackmon until just before halftime. “I think everybody was excited to see him.”
Throughout the past decade, the famous quarterback and receiver duo had infrequently seen or spoken to each other.
But reconnecting was easy. They even combined for one final Weeden-to-Blackmon score in the end zone — a fade route suggested by Weeden’s buddy in Edmond should Blackmon return.
“Throwing a ball to him, man, is like riding a bike,” Weeden said.
They laughed. They embraced.
“I think for the most part just to get back and the support I think he was feeling from everybody was good,” Weeden said. “I think it was good for him and everybody involved.”
On a weekend of celebration for the 2011 Cowboys squad that won the Big 12 title and the Fiesta Bowl, there was nothing that topped the re-emergence of possibly the greatest player in orange and black since Barry Sanders.
Blackmon — now a little heavier than his Weeden-to-Blackmon days and featuring long dreadlocks — delighted OSU fans, former teammates and current players with his return.
He even surprised the Cowboys’ receivers before the game, meeting with them.
“It was dope, honestly,” senior receiver Tay Martin said. “It’s kind of like a dream come true to actually see him in person.
“He shook my hand. I don’t think I’m going to wash it again for like a month. Trying to get the superpowers.”
Blackmon had not publicly returned to Stillwater since his fall from grace in the NFL and his personal life.
Weeden hears questions every time he returns to Stillwater. Where is Blackmon? How’s Blackmon doing?
He never had much of an answer. Blackmon chooses a secluded life primarily around Ardmore, his hometown.
“He’s a long way from Stillwater,” Weeden said. “When you’re not around it all the time, it’s probably just human nature to forget how much people appreciate you, respect you, care about you and everything else.”
After winning back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards as college football’s best receiver, Blackmon was selected fifth overall by Jacksonville in the 2012 draft.
He started fast, too. As a rookie, he made 14 starts. He caught 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns. The next season, he was suspended the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. In the four games he did play — he caught 29 passes for 415 yards and a touchdown.
Blackmon was suspended indefinitely from the NFL in November 2013. He was arrested four times for alcohol or drugs throughout the next four years.
“I care about him, so I was obviously pulling for him,” Weeden said. “I’m convinced that he could still be playing today and still be a top 5-6 guy in the league. He was a rare talent. There was no ceiling. He had the ability to do really whatever he wanted. He was that good.
“I hated to see it. Unfortunately, I’ve been around a couple of guys like that that they haven’t had the best path, I guess. I hated it for him because, like I said, I know how good — and not that it’s about money, but he had the opportunity to make a ton of money and I know he did well.
“He had a chance to cement himself as one of the all-time greats not only in college football but in my opinion he could do it at the next level. Every time he was out there, he was pretty dominant. I hated it for him.”
But Weeden never really sensed pain or regret from Blackmon over the weekend. He was the same happy-go-lucky man who tortured defensive backs. Blackmon seemed at peace.
“At the end of the day, that’s all that matters,” Weeden said.
That made the return more special for those who knew Blackmon the best.
“It’s good for him,” OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said. “He loved being around here and told the guys, ‘I’m excited to be back here, go out there and get after them,’ and some words I probably shouldn’t repeat.
“It was good.”
Dunn was instrumental in Blackmon’s return. The two remain in contact. Dunn encouraged Blackmon to join the reunion.
“He needs to come back,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “He was arguably the best receiver that’s ever played here and was a fantastic player.”
And it was good for the current players.
Sophomore receiver Rashod Owens was just 10 when Blackmon won his second Biletnikoff Award.
The moment in 2011 was likely lost on Owens. He was all about playing with Blackmon on the latest video game. NCAA Football. Eventually, Madden. Blackmon was a force in real life and in digital form.
“I used to use him a lot,” Owens said. “He’s a great receiver.”
But the magnitude of the moment was understood Saturday when Blackmon entered the Cowboys’ locker room. “It was a real shock,” Owens said. Blackmon’s tale is both cautionary and inspiring. He reached the pinnacle of college football, only for his life to go another direction.
“It was great to have him in there,” Martin said. “It actually filled me more to just see him.”