From the Commodores to captain: Charting Bears FB Blasingame's journey
Of all the positions on an NFL offense, fullback might be the most overlooked.
Most fans have their eyes on the quarterback, running back, wide receivers and maybe the offensive line. Only die-hards are really watching the dude executing battering-ram blocks that spring the tailback for huge gains.
Well, on Wednesday, Bears coach Matt Eberflus gave a nod to Khari Blasingame by naming his fullback an honorary captain for Sunday's game against Detroit at Soldier Field. The fourth-year pro will join Eddie Jackson, Jaylon Jones, Justin Fields and Cody Whitehair at midfield for the coin toss.
"He's done great in terms of his lead blocking (and) his physicality," Eberflus said. "He's exactly what we stand for here at Chicago."
"A little bit surprised," Blasingame said, "but it's always cool to be recognized from your team for your work."
Blasingame's put in plenty of hard work since being signed by Minnesota as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt in May 2019. The Huntsville, Alabama, native never played a single snap at fullback before joining the Vikings, so learning a new position at the NFL level took some time.
"Yeah, it was difficult," Blasingame said. "It's a whole new technique and it's really a whole new mindset. Running and being physical with the ball in your hand is one thing; but then running and understanding entries and understanding leverage and things like that -- it's a whole different level."
Blasingame was a two-way starter at safety and running back in high school. He played linebacker at Vanderbilt as a freshman, but the Commodores moved him to running back as a sophomore. That season, he ran for 446 yards on 97 carries, including 10 touchdowns. After a disappointing junior year, Blasingame ran for 401 yards and also caught 25 passes for 320 yards as a senior.
He was hoping to be a late-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, but it didn't happen. The Vikings reached out, however, and he jumped at the chance -- even if it meant stepping out of his comfort zone.
"It's just been the story of my career: Adapt and get on the field any way you can," said Blasingame, who loved watching LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Vick and Brian Dawkins growing up. "I feel like that's been the calling card of my career."
Blasingame credits Vikings RB coach Kennedy Polamalu for helping teach him the position, but it was in Tennessee where he made his NFL debut. Tennessee claimed Blasingame off waivers on Nov. 13, 2019, and he went on to play 32 games for the Titans.
Blasingame paved the way for Derrick Henry for three straight seasons, including 2020 when Henry ran for 2,027 yards and 17 TDs.
"He does some crazy things with the football," said Blasingame, who signed a one-year deal with the Bears last off-season. "It's something I'll remember for a long time -- blocking for a 2,000-yard rusher and being a small part of that. That was really cool."
Now, Blasingame's part of a team that might set the franchise mark for most rushing yards in a season. His role has diminished of late -- he's only been in for 15% of the snaps the last five games -- but teammates still appreciate everything he does on and off the field.
"Great teammate," said tight end Cole Kmet. "Obviously a great blocker and a guy that is able to create holes for his running backs, Justin (Fields) and everybody else. ...
"Doesn't get a lot of credit all the time, but man, he really just lowers his shoulder and plays really physical."
Said RB Khalil Herbert: "He's an amazing person, just the way he carries himself every day. He's a new dad. He's gonna be a great dad."
Indeed, Blasingame's eyes light up when talking about his 7-week old daughter, Jordyn. Blasingame doesn't get to see her as much as he'd like, but the 26-year-old is thrilled that his wife, Miaya, is paving the way for them all at home.
You know, like a good fullback would do.
"I'm here for a lot of the day and I'm focused a lot here," Blasingame said. "My wife does an amazing job doing all that she does with my daughter. ...
"I am enjoying being a dad and it's the most fun thing I've ever done, but my wife is just absolutely crushing it right now."
Just as Blasingame is crushing it for the Bears.
"He's done a lot of sacrifice in his position, obviously leading the way for a lot of things in the running game," Eberflus said. "We're excited about him."