WHEELING - As an outside linebacker in Florida A&M's 3-4 defense, Linsly product Akil Blount's job is get after the opposing quarterback. Saturday, he'll have the opportunity of a lifetime as the Rattlers roll into Ohio Stadium to take on No. 4 Ohio State as considerable underdogs.
Taking snaps for the Buckeyes will be Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller or his backup, Kenny Guiton, who just happened to be recognized as the Walter Camp Player of the Week for his efforts in last week's road victory at Cal. Not that Blount himself thinks much of it all.
"It's the next game on the schedule,'' Blount said Tuesday from the school's Tallahassee campus. "We realize the opportunity that's there, but we're breaking them down like we break down everyone else (on film).
"We're not worrying about what analysts say or what outsiders think. We're focusing on Florida A&M.''
No matter how you look at it though, it's going to be pretty cool for a guy who used to play his home games in front of a couple hundred people to walk out of the tunnel in front of 100,000-plus at the Horseshoe.
"As a football player growing up you just dream of going to play college football. You have to embrace the moments because you only live once and you're only in college once,'' said Blount, who has nine tackles (five solos) including 2.5 for loss and a half of a sack for the 1-2 Rattlers. "The biggest crowd I played in front of in high school was against Wheeling Central at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"Now I am going in front of 100,000. But the thing is, we aren't playing against those 100,000 people. We're playing against the 11 guys across the line from us.''
Perhaps as many as a couple thousand of those fans will be decked out in A&M's green and orange, with a number wearing Blount's No. 47 jersey. He said he knows a lot of people are coming out to show their support, taking advantage of what will possibly be the lone chance to see Blount play collegiately.
"I'm sure the game will be televised and a lot of people will be watching from home also,'' said Blount, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound sophomore. "My family will be there, my mom and dad.
"A lot of people from the Wheeling area will be there and a lot from Linsly and even the Ohio Valley in general have told me they are coming.
"It's great to be coming to Ohio to represent my school.''
Speaking of that, Blount feels as though he's still representing his old school, in addition to his new one. Blount gives a lot of credit to his coaches at Linsly for making him into the player and man he is today, and says he keeps in contact every week.
"Coach (James) Wallace, Coach (B.J.) Depew, Coach (Dave) Plumby are a great group of guys who really shaped and molded me from the time I got there in fifth grade,'' Blount said. "In high school it all came to fruition and I was able to use what they taught me.
"It was more of them and the experience they have that prepared me to go away and be successful in college.''
Blount is succeeding, both on the field and more importantly, in the class room. That last part is something he takes very seriously.
"That's a big adjustment because it's really a 24-7 job,'' Blount said. "I see an awful lot of college athletes fall victim to being ineligible. Loving football as much as you do, it makes no sense and I would hate to be one that end up ineligible.
"I'm embracing the challenge because it's a privilege.''
Blount said he often picks the brain of his father, Mel, who of course was a part of the Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s that won four Super Bowls and is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dad knows a little about playing in big games.
"I talk to him daily and can honestly say he is my biggest fan, and I can tell when I talk to him that he wants me to succeed,'' Blount said. "From time to time he will share his experiences with me.''
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org