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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Utah defensive back Julian Blackmon brings down Washington State's Jamire Calvin at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
I wasn't hardly recruited, but you know, the only thing that did for me was just put a fire in me to show these coaches why they should have recruited me harder. —Utah cornerback Julian Blackmon

SALT LAKE CITY — Julian Blackmon isn’t sure why more colleges didn’t recruit him when he was a star cornerback and receiver at Layton High.

But the Utah sophomore didn’t spend much time worrying about it. Instead, he used it as motivation.

“I felt very underestimated,” said Blackmon, who just earned All-Pac-12 second-team honors for a regular-season performance that made him one of Utah’s most reliable assets in the secondary. “I wasn’t hardly recruited, but you know, the only thing that did for me was just put a fire in me to show these coaches why they should have recruited me harder.”

Both Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and former Layton head coach Jim Batchelor couldn’t understand why only the Utes and a few smaller programs showed any interest in the three-sport standout.

“I think part of it may be that his senior year he broke his hand in the third game,” Batchelor said. “It required surgery, and he was basically done. … We were 3-0 when he broke his hand, and then we went 50-50 after that. People had to respect him because as soon as you put the ball in his hands, good things were going to happen.”

Blackmon helped guide the Layton basketball team to a state title as a junior point guard, and he was a 5A state champion in the long jump his senior season (2016).

“He was probably the most athletic kid I’ve had the opportunity to coach, if you’re talking flat-out coordination,” Batchelor said. “He was the guy. He was flat out THE guy. Even after he was hurt, he was still there pushing. He was the first guy in springs, the guy to get the kids up and going, and he was the same way in basketball.”

“He’s one of those diamonds in the rough that we made a living at when we were in the Mountain West,” Whittingham said. “He’s an example of how we won a bunch of games in the other league, and there is still a place for that guy in recruiting, but a little bit fewer and further between.”

The 6-foot-1 corner was the only member of the secondary to start all 12 regular-season games. He finished with 46 total tackles, 36 of those solo. He also tied a team-high two interceptions and tied the team high pass break-ups with six.

The speed of Blackmon’s development didn’t surprise his coaches.

“We had him in our summer camps, and we loved him,” Whittingham said, “and thought, ‘Why hasn’t this guy been recruited more heavily?’ That was kind of a mystery to us why people didn’t recognize his abilities. But we were fortunate to get him.”

Blackmon said that while he definitely wanted to prove any doubters wrong, he is surprised at how quickly he’s found success at the collegiate level. He credits the Utah coaching staff for helping him turn raw athleticism and competitiveness into technique and confidence.

“That’s one thing my dad actually said to me,” Blackmon said. “From just our first game last spring. He was just like, ‘You know, you look way different. … I always knew that you were really good, but you look like you actually want to play now.’ And that’s one thing with me is just confidence. Confidence is really key when it comes to football. Being able to have confidence will really boost your game because it boosts your fire and you really want to play. I think that was the difference for me just wanting to get better and show everyone what I can do.”

He felt blessed to be able to play at Utah, a team he’s loved since he was a kid.

“I was just happy to be able to be here,” he said. “I’m thankful Utah gave me an opportunity, and you know, I thank coach Whitt every day for putting me on the team. I wouldn’t have ever been able to get where I am now without them giving me a look.”

He's also grateful to his friends and family who have always believed in him and continue to root for him.

"It's just funny how things work out in the end," he said smiling. "I'm just happy that everyone in Layton has my back, and I'm just proud to be from Layton and doing what I'm doing."

Batchelor said Blackmon’s competitive fire and work ethic allowed him to capitalize on natural athletic talent. He’s one of the gritty sophomore’s biggest fans.

“I watch every game because I want to see how he’s doing,” said Batchelor, who gave up coaching last year to become an administrator in the Davis School District. “Nothing surprises me. If everything goes right, we might be seeing him play on Sunday one of these years. He’s hardworking, respectful and competitive. He’s one of those you wish you had the opportunity to coach every year. But he’s special. They only come like that once in a while.”