August 27, 2009 1:13:00 PM
FULTON -- Tevin Blanchard didn''t expect to wind up at Itawamba Community College.
As a standout on the Aberdeen High School football team last season, Blanchard entertained dreams of earning a scholarship to play major Division I college football.
When those dreams didn''t pan out, the wide receiver/cornerback believed he would have an opportunity to walk on to the Mississippi State football team.
But Blanchard, an ''A'' and ''B'' student, was shocked to discover he didn''t meet the academic requirements to enroll at the school.
"It was a big surprise because I thought I had everything being an ''A'' and ''B'' student," said Blanchard, who said he was missing a half an elective to get into MSU. "Sometimes you have to go around an obstacle and make the best of it."
Blanchard hasn''t allowed the detour to stop him in his quest to play major Division I college football.
In fact, it might be motivating him to perform at an even higher level.
Blanchard will be in the starting lineup at 7 tonight when ICC opens its 2009 season against No. 14 Jones County.
"I have been looking at the upside of it," Blanchard said. "I won''t have to pay for school, and I will have to work hard to maintain that same goal.
"It will give me an opportunity to come in and work hard, make friends and new teammates and play against good competition. I have to gain some weight, get stronger, and I am going to try to be my best."
Blanchard, a 6-foot, 160-pounder, had a list of scholarship offers from NCAA Division II schools but opted to stay close to home and play for the Indians.
Last season, Blanchard helped Aberdeen High advance to the Class 3A North Half State championship game, where the team lost to eventual state champion Louisville. He helped the Bulldogs win their first seven games and finish 11-3.
Blanchard caught 47 passes for 492 yards and nine touchdowns, and finished with 510 yards returning kicks and punts.
It didn''t take long for ICC coach Jeff Terrill to see Blanchard''s talent. He and offensive coordinator Jeff Carter and defensive coordinator Kenneth Jackson decided to move Blanchard to cornerback, which is where he will start tonight.
Terrill said Blanchard hasn''t allowed the disappointment of not being at a Division I program slow him down.
"We just expect Tevin to have a great game and a great career at ICC," Terrill said. "He has come in and shown great maturity and has had a really good work ethic. We made the decision to put him at corner and he has fit right in from day one."
Terrill, who also coaches the secondary, said Blanchard''s skills as a wide receiver should help him transition to playing defense in college. He said Blanchard''s ability to judge routes, the depth of routes, and his athleticism should help him solidify the position.
"I think he is one the big boys must have missed," Terrill said with a smile on his face.
Carter, who is an assistant head coach, also saw Blanchard''s potential last month when the players reported to school. He said Blanchard''s speed and long arms also will help him make an impact.
"He seems to be happy and to have a smile on his face even though it didn''t work out for him," Carter said. "We recruited him the whole time, and we''re glad he decided to come here."
Carter said Blanchard needs to put some weight on and to get stronger, but he believes the junior college environment will be perfect for him.
Jackson plans to work a lot with Blanchard in the next two years. As the team''s strength coach (also defensive line coach), Jackson said Blanchard is one of those players you have to find a place for on the field.
"Tevin is a tremendous athlete," Jackson said. "He has great feet, great hips, and he can flat out fly. He will have to play somewhere. He is that athletic of a kid."
Blanchard said people have told him he needs to gain weight before he started high school. He said he has a good appetite but he doesn''t know where all of the calories go.
He''s bound to get his fill of playing time, weight training, and conditioning work to help[ him bulk up, which will help him realize his ultimate goal.
Blanchard hopes he will be able to gain 10-20 pounds in his career at ICC. He feels the extra weight and strength will help him attract the attention of major Division I college coaches who might have heard of him when he was at Aberdeen High.
Terrill said Blanchard''s future is extremely bright and that he is excited to see what he can do tonight in the season opener.
"You would have thought he had played corner 24-7 the way he stepped right out there and was doing it from day one," Terrill said. "He does a lot of natural things that are hard to teach. He''s a natural out there. He''s one of those kids who has a knack for being around the ball.
"We are fortunate he took a second look at everything and gave our program a chance."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.