Not everyone can be a first-round draft pick, but everyone can make a difference in someone's life, the former Penn State quarterback said.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
SALEM -- Eighth-grader Todd Blackledge was a ball boy for the University of Kentucky football team as it faced the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
Coached then by the legendary Bear Bryant, Alabama hadn't lost to the Kentucky Wildcats in years, but found themselves down 14-0 at halftime.
"We were beating Bear Bryant's team, and the atmosphere was electric," Blackledge said.
In the third quarter, Alabama roared back and tied the score 14-14. Blackledge still remembers the quiet resolve of the Alabama team as the fourth quarter was about to begin.
"They didn't taunt, they didn't say a word," he said. "They all just held up four fingers. They were telling us it was the fourth quarter, and the rest of the game didn't matter. They were the Crimson Tide, and the fourth quarter is when they make everything happen. The fourth quarter is when they win. They did, 28-14."
Speaker: Speaking Thursday at the Salem Golf Club, Blackledge told an elite group of county 12th-graders that perseverance -- a fourth-quarter attitude -- is one of four qualities of a difference-maker. The seniors passed all five parts of the 12th-grade proficiency test with honors.
"You don't need pointers on being successful," Blackledge told the seniors. "The challenge is to be more than successful, to be a difference-maker."
Not everyone has the opportunity to be a first-round draft pick or a corporate CEO, but everyone can make a difference in someone's life, he said.
"Difference-makers encourage and inspire everyone around them to be better," he said. "When Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls, he made a difference not only by his own extraordinary talent, but because he raised the level of play for everyone else. He made all the other Bulls better."
Qualities: Blackledge challenged the seniors to become difference-makers, by practicing perseverance and three other qualities:
Discipline --"Work will win when wishing won't" is an anonymous quote Blackledge prominently posted through his scholastic and collegiate careers.
Humility -- "Success is never final, failure is never fatal," said Penn State head football Coach Joe Paterno.
Accountability -- "A person can make mistakes but he is never a failure until he starts blaming someone else," said former Cleveland Browns head Coach Sam Rutiglano.
"If you weave these qualities into the fabric of who you are, then no matter where you go, or what career path you choose, you can be a difference-maker," he concluded.
Now a game analyst for college football at CBS Sports, Blackledge lives in the Canton area with his wife and three sons.
Drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft, Blackledge played seven years in the NFL, with the Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was inducted into the Verizon Academic All-American Hall of Fame in 1997.
Other accomplishments: Blackledge is a 1983 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Penn State University and an academic all-American. He led Penn State to its first national championship with a victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in 1982. He set 26 Penn State career passing records while earning a 3.8 grade point average.
Blackledge won the Davey O'Brien Award in 1982 as the nation's top collegiate quarterback. He donated the scholarship from the award to Renaissance Fund, which provides tuition assistance to Penn State students.