Jaguars RB Beau Blankenship: 'We felt like this was a great team'

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

During a two-day rookie mini-camp that saw record attendances, dozens of tryout players were invited to Jacksonville to compete for what would only be two open spots on the Jaguars roster. After going undrafted and unsigned, Ohio running back Beau Blankenship ultimately filled one of those spots.

For 256 players, the 2014 NFL Draft weekend meant the culmination of a lifetime of hard work. It meant a multi-year contract that most likely totaled six figures. It meant affirmation because an NFL team was willing to spend a draft pick on making sure you were on their team.

For the hundreds of UDFAs who signed in the hours afterwards, it was a roller coaster ride of anxiety and emotion. It meant unfulfilled expectation. It meant a few more hours until your dream took its next step.

For guys like Beau Blankenship, it meant days of agony.

"It was a really tough weekend for me and my family," Blankenship said.

"We just felt like this was a great team and something I wanted to be a part of."-Beau Blankenship on the Jaguars

For a four-year starter at Ohio University, it was admittedly a tough pill to swallow for Blankenship. In 2012, he was a second-team All-MAC selection as he rushed for a school-record 1,604 yards and 15 touchdowns. Blankenship also set the Independence Bowl record with 104 rushing yards as his Bobcats defeated Louisiana-Monroe 45-14.

But instead of declaring early, Blankenship stayed for his senior season. He split time fellow Ohio running back Ryan Boykin, whose workload increased from 74 carries to 103 carries in 2013. Blankenship's workload decreased from 312 carries to just 204 carries. The result? A senior season where he had 700 less rushing yards and 10 less touchdowns than the season before it.

Blankenship, however, still believed he'd go drafted.

"We thought I had a shot late to get drafted and we thought we would almost definitely get a free agent spot."

After weighing his options, he forged ahead and accepted a two-day tryout with the Jaguars.

"All I wanted was an opportunity and I'm thankful I got one here. We just felt like this was a great team and something I wanted to be a part of."

Over the weekend, the Jaguars hosted most of their UDFA signings and 27 additional tryout players. There's only 90 spots on the roster and Blankenship knew he needed to make the most of it.

"Rookie minicamp was great, the coaches made all the tryout players feel very welcome and wanted. I tried to connect with all of the coaches I was around."

And at the end of the second day of mini-camp, Blankenship said he was invited into the front offices and his dream -- albeit a dream deferred -- were finally realized.

"Head coach [Gus Bradley] and Mr. Caldwell sat me down and told me. I'm thankful I got signed. I just played as hard as I could to get an opportunity."

Will Blankenship stick around through the preseason? Could a spot on the practice squad be in Blankenship's future? Will he challenge seventh-round draft pick Storm Johnson for a spot on final 53-man roster?

"I don't know what the outcome will be but I'm believing for the best. I'm very blessed to be here."

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