Lakewood High School defensive end Leroy Blanding, an Honorable Mention selection to the 2017 All-Area football team, signed a letter of intent to play football at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas, at a National Signing Day event …
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Lakewood High School defensive end Leroy Blanding, an Honorable Mention selection to the 2017 All-Area football team, signed a letter of intent to play football at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas, at a National Signing Day event on Wednesday at Lakewood.
Gators head coach Larry Cornelius had high praise for Blanding's work ethic and commitment to doing what is best for him academically as well as athletically.
"Leroy's work ethic is unreal," Cornelius said. "He's one of the hardest workers I've every had in 18 years of coaching."
The 6-foot, 4-inch tall 200-pound defensive end has a goal to add 30 to 40 pounds to his frame and ultimately, to play for the University of South Carolina when he has accomplished all he can at the junior college level. Cornlius said Blanding has the tools to get it done.
"You always see him in the weight room. You can't kick him out," Cornelius said, addressing the football team, which was assembled to see Blanding off. "7:30 in the morning, 7:30 at night, he's always in the weight room. He's one of the fastest young men at the defensive end position. He has a great get-off and they love that. A lot of schools were looking at him for that. He has a quick first step, and that's hard to teach. That's a natural thing.
"Hutchinson came down on a Sunday, and in my 18 years of coach that's never happened," he said. "When a head coach from the state of Kansas comes down on a Sunday to see one of our guys, that says a lot about what Leroy has done this past year and the highlights he created in setting up his future."
Cornelius said Hutchinson provides a nurturing academic environment and has been one of the best JUCO destinations because of its well-rounded approach to building student-athletes.
"What I love about Hutchinson is that they will make you become a student," Cornelius said. "They're going to give you the tools. You won't just go to study hall, you'll have individual tutors for each class that you have to meet with three times a week. It's not going to be an issue with Leroy when it comes to effort, and we know their coaches are going to be mad at Leroy because they can't kick him out of the weight room either. We're extremely proud of this young man.
"Hutchinson is traditionally it's one of the best junior colleges when it comes to football, and when it comes to education and getting these young men to the next level," he said. "I'm looking at the endgame, not where you start but where you finish. I've had a couple of players in past years that have gone there and have gone on to bigger and better things, power-5 schools. But at the end of the day, you want to get that education, get the associate's degree from Hutchinson and then when he goes to a major college, get that bachelor's degree. Football will be over one day, and you've got to have that brain."
Blanding wasn't heavily recruited, but sent his highlights to Hutchinson and was surprised when they expressed an interest in having him come to Kansas.
"I never really got the looks I wanted as an athlete. It took a long time, but it was worth the wait," Blanding said. "I just wanted to kill it, going to football practice and just doing the things I had to do to qualify for a scholarship. It wasn't where it was supposed to be, but God works in mysterious ways, and (the opportunity) came and I decided I should go to the school that's right for me.
"JUCO is not a bad route, and I just picked the route I needed to pick," he said. "Some other players, you know, they want to go (Division I), but I decided if JUCO is the only thing I can do right now that I'd just do it and be successful. I try to get in as much work as I can to prepare myself for the next level, and that's what you've got to do."
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