Rough childhood prepares Blackman for life, football
Dominique Blackman said he remembers meeting his biological mother, a drug addict, only once. His father died in jail when he was 5.
Growing up in South Central L.A., Blackman was raised by his aunt, the woman he still refers to as his mom.
The hard times he experienced early in life helped Blackman prepare for a long, winding journey from Los Angeles to the University of Idaho, where he enrolled in 2011 after making stops at L.A. Harbor Junior College and Old Dominion.
Blackman, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound junior, will make his second Division I start behind center when the Vandals face third-ranked LSU at 7 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
“I learned how to grow up a lot faster than most kids I know,” Blackman said. “I think that’s why I’ve been able to handle all the adversity I’ve been through.”
Among the nation’s top 30 quarterback prospects in the 2008 recruiting class, Blackman signed with Washington as a senior at Carson High in Los Angeles, where his big frame and strong left arm earned him All-City accolades.
But Blackman’s enrollment at Washington was postponed because of academic issues, and a coaching change at the school later that year ultimately led him to move in a different direction.
He returned home and played one season for L.A. Harbor, where he averaged 337.4 yards passing per game and threw 35 touchdown passes.
Then he transferred to Old Dominion, grudgingly accepting a redshirt in his one year there.
Blackman finally made it to Idaho in January 2011, then sat out the following season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.
After serving a one-game suspension for breaking an unspecified team rule, Blackman got his first Division I start — and his first start, period, since junior college — in a 21-13 loss at Bowling Green State last Saturday.
“We could tell in his preparation throughout (fall) camp and throughout the last couple weeks that he had just been so excited to take his first snaps under the lights,” Idaho receiver Mike Scott said. “I think it showed. You could tell he’d been studying his film. You could tell his focus was there 100 percent. I think he came out and proved to everyone out there that he can compete at this level.”
Even though the Vandals came up short, Blackman completed 30 of 37 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought it was a very good beginning, and I’m very excited about what his future can be and what we’re going to be able to do with this offense,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said. “This has been a passion and a dream of his for a long time.”
Although he’s had a hard time adjusting to the snowy winters and the small-town environment, Blackman said Moscow, Idaho, has in some ways been a perfect fit for him because it offers few peripheral distractions.
There’s football. There’s school.
There’s little else to do.
But no matter how far Blackman gets from his foster-child roots, he seems to have a hard time escaping off-field adversity.
He lost one of his best friends in May when Idaho receiver Ken McRoyal was shot and killed outside a Los Angeles party. Blackman and McRoyal were teammates at Carson High before reuniting in Idaho.
To remember McRoyal, Blackman performs their secret handshake in front of McRoyal’s old locker before going to practice.
Another friend of his from high school was also shot and killed this summer. A cousin, former USC lineman Fred Matua, died Aug. 5 from a heart-related issue.
“Sometimes it feels weird not having adversity — not having things to go through,” Blackman said. “Everything being OK, sometimes it just doesn’t feel right with everything I’ve been through.”
Tough times off the field may explain one of Blackman’s most admirable qualities on it.
No matter the time on the clock or the score of the game, Scott said his quarterback always has the same demeanor.
“When you see him in the huddle and you listen to him, you can’t tell how the last play went,” Scott said. “You don’t know if we just had a big play or he just threw a pick.”
That kind of attitude should serve him well when he and his teammates enter hostile Tiger Stadium to face one of the fastest, nastiest defenses around.
“I’m looking forward to going against the best team in the nation,” Blackman said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”