Freshman corner Al Blades Jr. came into Miami during the summer and has quickly earned the trust of the coaching staff in a few short months, showing out on both defense and special teams. This week, he was honored by being named the special teams captain for the Toledo game and he elaborated on what that meant for him.
“It means a lot. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears being shed out here,” Blades said. “We come out and work every day. It is an honor to be honored in such a great way. It is very emotional for me. You grow up watching everything and to be out there as a captain at the University of Miami is something big for me.
“I found out while out here (at practice). I had no idea what was going on. [Mark Richt] was just naming captains and me being a freshman, I wasn’t really expecting my name to be called. But he called my name and I was still in just disbelief. I went around practice asking, ‘Does that mean I’m going to be a captain?’”
Earlier in fall camp, Blades was singled out by coach Richt for his effort and competitiveness every day in practice and it’s clear he’s carried that over to game days after he was named the youngest captain ever since Richt has been in Miami, according to Todd Hartley yesterday.
“I just give 110% every play,” Blades said. “Whether it is on kick off or on punt, every play, we watch film and you see me, I just try to be the first guy down the field. I try to be the first to the ball, no matter what it is, even tackle to the floor. I just try to get to the ball. No matter what it is, I just give all my effort.”
Blades’ is story is well-known by most Hurricanes’ fans by now: son of the late great safety Al Blades, the younger Blades comes from a family of Canes’ royalty, which also includes his uncles Bennie and Brian, who starred for UM in the 80’s.
“Outside of my bloodline, I really think that, no matter what, this is a blessing to be able to go to a university like this and play football,” Blades said. “If you add the bloodline into this, it adds on a lot of emotional things for me. But, it really is just a blessing and I just take it in day by day.”
Fifteen years ago now, Blades was only three years old when his father, who played one season in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers, tragically died in a car crash while out celebrating his 26th birthday. Since he’s been at Miami, Blades hears comparisons to his father both on and off the field, but says it’s nothing really new for him.
“It means a lot, but it is nothing new for me,” Blades said on being compared to his dad. “Growing up with a mom that was around him all the time and aunties and family, and to hear them say I’m just a reincarnation of him. It is something that is just tagged along with me now. All I can do is just be myself and if I symbolize him then that’s just what happens.”
Blades has gotten so many calls and well wishes on becoming a captain from all over the Miami community, ranging from fans to former players, that he can’t remember them all.
“I can’t remember off the top of my head who called me because I had a lot of people reaching out,” Blades said. “But I definitely felt welcome and felt the U family. I had a lot of people, in general, congratulating me, which means a lot to me. But, as I said before, I don’t really pay attention to social media. We just want to go out there and play ball and win this game.”
He does remember two calls in particular though, both of which came from uncles Bennie and Brian.
“Oh yeah, they all congratulated me. Both uncles called and congratulated me.”
Crowd size can be a negative factor effecting young players that don’t have a ton of experience at the college level, but for Blades, it hasn’t been something he pays much attention to as he focuses intently on the task in front of him.
“Honestly for me, I’m the type of kid when I go in, it is kind of like tunnel vision for me,” Blades said. “Once I’m on the field, I don’t really see the crowd. It’s just me, my teammates, and Coach [Manny] Diaz on the sideline calling the plays. Once I got in, I was shaking a little on the sideline, but once I got in, I was like this is what we do, this is what we practice every week. So it was just like roll with the punches from there.”
What’s the biggest thing he’s learned since he’s gotten to Miami?
“I just learned hustle, demeanor, and attitude is everything,” Blades said. “No matter how good or attitude I came in with, you can always improve. I learned that the little things do matter and you just have to take in what your coaches tell you and just play hard.”
Despite all the hype around him being named captain, Blades hasn’t let Toledo out of his sights one bit.
“We’re coming out here every day and we are preparing,” Blades said on prep for this week’s game. “The only team that can beat us is us. So we are preparing every day to go out there and give 100% and just play ball.”