In less than two full seasons with the Eagles, Reed Blankenship has gone from an undrafted free agent fighting to make the team to a starting safety anchoring the Philadelphia defense. PhiladelphiaEagles.com talked with Blankenship about his journey to the NFL, the people who have guided him, the leader he is becoming, and how he's having fun along the way.
Owen Boyle: You came to Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent and now you are a mainstay in this defense, do you ever look back and put into perspective what this journey has been like for you?
Reed Blankenship: "The only time I really think about it is when I am told to look back on how I got here and all the adversity I had to get through. Adversity was something we talked about in one of our recent team meetings. Coach (Nick) Sirianni asked us to reflect on what got us here because we're all here for a reason. One of my first thoughts was how hard it was to get here; I have a chip on my shoulder for a certain reason. There was a lot of doubt, and it will always be there, but I am here for a reason, and they trust me for a reason."
OB: You have formed a strong bond with James Bradberry, you are locker neighbors and play together in the secondary. What has his friendship meant to you on and off the field?
RB: "James has been a leader and a role model. We are fortunate enough to have guys like that in our room who are able to communicate and don't snub their noses at all the younger cats, like me. I am very, very lucky to be right next to him every day, a lot of guys don't get that opportunity. I take all the chances I can get to talk with him and learn from him."
OB: You talked about the leaders in this locker room, and we have seen you start to become one. Is that a goal of yours, to be one of the leaders on this team?
RB: "Absolutely. I feel like I'll fall into a leadership role here. Everybody looks for a leader at some point during the season, sometimes that comes from guys that you don't really hear from a lot. That is what I want to be, and I have great guys and mentors to look up to, so learning from them will help a great deal with my leadership role."
OB: Earlier this season, you told me that when you were at Middle Tennessee State, you looked up to Kevin Byard, who has his jersey retired by the program. Now you have had the chance to play with him, what has that been like for you?
RB: "It's been awesome. Like I said, I never thought I would be able to play with him. As soon as Kevin got here, his communication was so professional. I thought to myself, this is what a pro is, and that's who I want to be like one day. I strive to be like him and follow in his footsteps."
OB: There has been a lot of change in the secondary this season, guys coming in like Kevin and guys leaving. How do you create chemistry with so many rotating pieces?
RB: "We're already a really close group. We always know that it's a next man-up mentality. Everybody is ready to go. The young guys listen and ask questions in the meeting room, that's what is good about our team right now. Nobody is ever in the blind, that is the biggest thing about creating our chemistry."
OB: The team is in a similar position now that you were in last year. What is the outlook moving forward knowing what your ultimate end goal is?
RB: "We take everything day by day. We're not going to look forward and we're not going to look behind us. Like I said, it is a mindset. Our mentality is, each day, each practice, it starts here. All that is important to us is focusing on our next game."
OB: I'm sure you have seen that you are the top vote-getter amongst the fans for the NFC's strong safety in the Pro Bowl. What do you think about that, if you think about it at all?
RB: "I really don't think about that, especially right now. I have a bigger responsibility right now and that's to help this team win as many games as possible. So, that's my mindset."
OB: We have seen you do the dance known as "The Reed" a few times this season. How did that come about and why is it so personal and unique to you?
RB: "I did it in practice one day and (Darius) Slay said, 'We have to do that in a game.' We finally got the chance to do it in Washington. When I got the pick, Slay and I did what we call 'The Reed.' That is one of the best parts about football, dancing and having fun!"