Rodrigo Blankenship walked out onto Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium for the last time in his career on Saturday against Texas A&M. He walked off as the all-time leading scorer in Georgia football history.
With his third of four field goals in a 19-13 victory over Texas A&M, Blankenship scored his 415th point, passing former kicker Blair Walsh’s previous record of 412.
Recruited as a walk-on, Blankenship redshirted his first season at Georgia, and continued to pay his own tuition his sophomore year. Then, just prior to the Notre Dame game in 2017, head coach Kirby Smart told Blankenship in private that he would be put on scholarship. And in true storybook style, Smart was the one who broke the news to him that he was now Georgia’s all-time leading scorer.
“I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” Blankenship said.
Known as Rod to his teammates and coaches, and Hot Rod by thousands of fans, Blankenship has become somewhat of a cult hero. The stadium erupts when his name is called during the starting lineup announcement, and it was the loudest it’s ever been when he took the field alongside his family on Senior Day. But none of that compares to the reception he got in the locker room from his teammates after breaking the record.
“It sounded like our student section,” Smart said. “Everybody went nuts and Rod took a bow. He didn’t say much. He just smiles and does his job.”
Famous for the thick glasses he wears under his helmet, Blankenship has long been a fan favorite for his unconventional style. But behind the goggles, he’s one of the hardest working players on the team, and his path to the record books was not an easy one.
“What Rodrigo has done and overcome is a story for the ages,” Smart said. “He’s been tremendous and has really become a weapon for us and thank goodness.”
Making 84 percent of his field goals, Blankenship is one of the most accurate kickers to ever tee it up between the hedges. But knack for putting it between the posts isn’t the only reason Bulldog nation respects the specs.
He’s also Georgia’s all-time leader in touchbacks with 220. Over his 53 games, opponents have returned about 30 percent of his kicks. He’s already been named the SEC special teams player of the week five times in 2019, and is easily one of Georgia’s most important players.
The Bulldogs needed him once again on Saturday against the Aggies, and he showed up. He made all four of his attempts, and punched a 49-yarder through driving rain to put give the Bulldogs a 6-3 lead in the second quarter. As impressive as his performance was, his teammates have come to expect it.
“It’s no surprise.” linebacker Monty Rice said. “I’m around Rod every day. He’s always the last one out of the training room. I know how hard he’s worked and the time he’s put in."
Rice went on to congratulate his teammate on what he called a “special moment,” and it certainly is. To break an all-time record at a 127-year-old program is incredible, but to do it in front of his family in his last game between the hedges is something Blankenship will never forget.
“I can’t put it into words,” Blankenship said. “I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet. I’m going to try to enjoy this and appreciate it for everything that it’s worth, but we’ve got a lot of football left to play.”