The Pittsburgh Steelers seventh-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has been made and it’s Massachusetts TE Rob Blanchflower.
Scouting report via Dave Te’ Thomas.
ROBERT J. BLANCHFLOWER
University of Massachusetts Minutemen
St. John’s High School
The 2013 season was not kind to the tight end his teammates nicknamed “Gronk-flower” because he wears the same jersey number, catches the ball very well and has the same muscular build as the “other” star tight end in his home state – Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. Unfortunately, much like the All-pro pass catcher, the UMass version had a difficult staying on the field during the 2013 campaign, as he fought gallantly while performing with a sports hernia.
The injury first occurred late in the 2012 schedule and would force Blanchflower to miss eight of the team’s final twenty-four games. He finished his career with twenty-seven starting assignments, pulling in 109 passes for 1,164 yards (10.68 ypc) and nine touch-downs, becoming the school’s all-time leader for receiving yards by a tight end. Since UMass moved to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks two years ago, the tight end accounted for seventy of his career 109 receptions, gaining 777 yards while reaching the end zone five times through sixteen contests.
Despite the injury issue, when the dust settled on what had been a most disappointing season for Blanchflower, he still made his mark as arguably the greatest tight end in school history. The old school record for tight ends was 1,151 yards, held by UMass Hall of Famer and All-American Milt Morin.
“I can’t share a school record with thousands of fans and alumni,” said Blanchflower when reflecting back on his college career, and more importantly, the team’s 2013 record of 1-11. “And I can’t share a school record with my teammates and coaches and trainers and doctors. We can say it a million times but you don’t know what they put into it. School records are great but when you don’t win …”
That was Blanchflower’s way of saying that school records are meaningless when a team is wallowing at the bottom of its conference. “We fought hard,” Blanchflower said. “Every player on the team did. It’s so much a feeling of we really blew this one even though we gave it all we had. It was tough to walk off that field.
“I’ve never been on a team where everyone’s so tight. I think it’s testament to what we’ve been through as a team … the trials and tribulations of everything we’ve been through.”
Blanchflower has experienced his own “trials and tribulations” because for all intents and purposes opponents double- or triple-team him the moment he steps off the bus.
“He gets a lot of attention and rightfully so,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “But he’s so big (6-4 and 260 pounds) and powerful that if he doesn’t get double coverage it’s hard for a linebacker or a nickel back to cover him.” Molnar didn’t have to think twice when asked if Blanchflower reminded him of any noteworthy tight end.
“He’s fairly unique,” Molnar said. “But at times he remains me of (five-time Pro Bowler) Jay Novacek who played for the Cowboys. He’s not the fastest tight end out there but he runs fast enough. He has excellent hands and is a good blocker. He’s very, very smart and can run past a guy in the open field or he can run him over.”
Theoretically it would be easy to say that Blanchflower’s accomplishments will be over-shadowed by the Minutemen’s losing season. But Molnar begged to differ. “I don’t know if his accomplishments will be overshadowed,” Molnar said. “Number one, Rob always has been a team player first. That’s a fact. He never talks about ‘Get me the ball’ or how many catches fewer (he gets). He’s all about being a team guy and about winning and helping UMass become the best it can be.”
Hailing from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, the local product lettered four times in football at St. John’s High School, where the senior captain, played defensive end and tight end. He was named to the All-State Super-26 Football Team while also earning Central Mass Division I North Defensive co-MVP and Telegram & Gazette Super Team All-Star honors as a senior. He finished the 2008 season with 32 tackles and eight sacks on defense while adding two touchdowns on 110 receiving yards on offense. He also graduated as an honor roll student.
Blanchflower red-shirted during his first season at UMass in 2009, performing with flashes of brilliance on the scout team, where the coaches quickly took notice, finding any way they could get him on the field the next season. There was thought for playing him on the defensive line, but he eventually started four of the eleven games he suited up for in 2010. He made 21 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns and as a member of the kickoff return unit, he ran back to short kicks for 29 yards.
As a sophomore, he doubled his starting assignments from the previous season and gained 208 yards on eighteen receptions, starting once at tight end and seven other times at the H-Back position. In 2012, Blanchflower’s season was “split down the middle” by a mysterious pain in his leg that would sideline him for two October contests. In the first five games, he had seventeen grabs for 186 yards. Upon his return to the lineup, he totaled 26 grabs for 278 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his final five appearances.
The team captain sat out the first three games of the 2013 campaign before getting on the field vs. Vanderbilt. He missed an early November meeting vs. Northern Illinois, returned the next week and then missed three of the team’s final four contests. He still ranked second on the team with 27 receptions for 313 yards (11.59 ypc) and three touchdowns.
Blanchflower received an invitation to conclude his college career in Mobile, Alabama as a member of the North team playing in the 2014 Senior Bowl, but the sports hernia would prevent him from suiting up. If he had been able to play, he would have become just the seventh player in school history to play in that all-star game. The Minutemen that did play in a Senior Bowl are Milt Morin (1966), John Hulecki (1972), Ed McAleney (1976), James Files (1976), Vladimir Ducasse (2010) and Emil Igwenagu (2012).
Blanchflower started twenty-seven of thirty-eight games for Massachusetts, catching 109 passes for 1,164 yards (10.68 ypc) and nine touchdowns…Since UMass moved to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, he gained 77 yards on 70 receptuions with five touch-downs in sixteen contests…His 1,164 yards broke Hall of Famer Milt Morin’s UMass record for receiving yards by a tight end and rank 15th on the school’s overall record chart…Also ranks eighth on the overall record list with 109 receptions.
Despite missing half the season due to injury, Blanchflower still maintained a veteran leadership role with the team during the course of the season as captain and was awarded the Vern Smith Leadership Award…A member of the Mackey Award Watch List and one of UMass’ highly rated NFL draft prospects, Blanchflower ranked second on the team with 27 receptions for 313 yards (11.59 ypc) and three touchdowns…Sat out the team’s first three games vs. Wisconsin, Maine and Kansas State due to a sports hernia…Returned vs. Vanderbilt and played in five consecutive games before being sidelined vs. Northern Illinois. He attempts to come back vs. Akron, but was then shut down for the final two games vs. Central Michigan and Ohio University…Hauled in seven catches for 42 yards in his 2013 debut, vs. Vanderbilt…Led all receivers with 98 yards on five receptions while recording the eventual game-winning touchdown as UMass defeated Miami (Ohio), 17-10. His 47-yard scoring grab vs. the RedHawks stands as the longest reception of the redshirt-senior’s career and pushed Blanchflower over 1,000 career receiving yards…Hauled in seven passes totaling a single-game career-high 131 yards while securing one touchdown vs. Western Michigan…Passed All-American Kerry Taylor for second all-time in receiving yards by a tight end at UMass vs. the Broncos, ending the game with 1,138 as a Minute-man…Returned from the injured list vs. Akron and caught five passes for 26 yards and a touchdown, becoming the all-time UMass leader in receiving yards by a tight end vs. the Zips. On his record-breaking grab, the pass from quarterback A.J. Doyle was a little high, but the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Blanchflower used his size and athleticism to make a leaping grab for a 9-yard gain and a UMass first down. That catch eventually led to a Minutemen field goal, the first points of the game in UMass’ 14-13 loss to the Zips. While the tight end’s accomplishment was overshadowed by the loss, he was certainly honored to be recognized for such a feat. “It’s an honor to receive the record and hopefully I’ll have a couple more yards this season, but it’s kind of a hollow feeling,” Blanchflower said. “Milt Morin was a legend. He always will be and will never be forgotten, me and him come from the same city (Leominster) so it’s a memorable event, but I wish it could’ve happened a little differently.” The fact that Blanchflower couldn’t break the record with a win on Senior Day had UMass coach Charley Molnar disappointed as well. “When it happened it was in the midst of a drive so I’m not sure as I was ever to tell Rob congratulations,” Molnar said. “Quite frankly you expect to tell him that in a winning locker room. It was one of the disappointments in the locker room for me.”
Blanchflower was named All-Mid American Conference second-team by The NFL Draft Report during UMass’ first season in the league and as an official member of the NCAA FBS ranks…Started ten games, missing two October contests vs. Western Michigan and Bowling Green with a leg injury…Finished second on the team with a career-high 43 receptions for 464 yards (10.79 ypc), as he reached the end zone twice…Hauled in five passes for 50 yards, including a 20-yard grab, at Miami (Ohio)…Made five receptions for 80 yards vs. Ohio University…Helped UMass to its first win as an FBS program with six grabs totaling 64 yards at Akron…Produced 44 yards and a touchdown on four catches vs. Buffalo…Registered ten catches for 100 yards and a touchdown vs. Central Michigan, earning him UMass Athlete of the Week honors.
Blanchflower appeared in eleven games, starting at tight end vs. Richmond and in seven other contests as the H-Back…Totaled 208 yards with a touchdown on eighteen catches (11.56 ypc)…Had two receptions vs. James Madison, one of which went for a touchdown, and finished with a season-high 37 yards…Logged two catches at Delaware for 31 yards… Made a season-high three catches vs. Central Connecticut for a total of 34 yards.
The red-shirt freshman played all eleven games with four starts, making 21 catches for 179 yards (8.52 ypc) and three touchdowns…Caught a five-yard touchdown as part of three catches for 11 yards vs. Delaware and pulled in five catches for 61 yards, with a 22 yard long reception vs. Maine…Posted four catches for 23 yards at James Madison and made three catches for 31 yards vs. New Hampshire in Colonial Clash, scoring his second-career touchdown as he fell on a fumble in the end zone for a score…Pulled in three tosses for 17 yards at Holy Cross, scoring his first-career touchdown on a 3-yard reception.
Blanchflower red-shirted during the season and worked with the scout team as a tight end.
2012 Season…Sat out the Western Michigan and Bowling Green contests with a leg contusion.
2013 Season…A sports hernia prevented Blanchflower from playing in the team’s first three games vs. Wisconsin, Maine and Kansas State…Returned for five contests and then sat out vs. Northern Illinois…Played vs. Akron, but then sat out the team’s final two games vs. Central Michigan and Ohio University.
4.82 in the 40-yard dash…1.72 10-yard dash…2.83 20-yard dash…4.47 20-yard shuttle…
11.95 60-yard shuttle…7.15 three-cone drill…32-inch vertical jump…9’-4” broad jump… Bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times…33 ¾-inch arm length…9 5/8-inch hands…80 5/8-inch wingspan.
Blanchflower attended St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, playing football for head coach John Andreoli…Lettered four times in football…The senior captain played defensive end and tight end…Named to the All-State Super-26 Football Team while also earning Central Mass Division I North Defensive co-MVP and Telegram & Gazette Super Team All-Star honors as a senior…Finished the 2008 season with 32 tackles and eight sacks on defense while adding two touchdowns on 110 receiving yards on offense…
Graduated as an honor roll student.
Blanchflower is majoring in Communications…Son of Elizabeth and Robert Blanchflower… Born 6/08/90…Resides in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.