There is no disputing one asset Julian Blair brings to the Towson State football team.
"He gives the offense great field position," says secondary and special teams coach Jay Robinson.
Blair, a junior defensive back, doubles as a kickoff returner and is fourth in Division I-AA with an average of 32.7 yards. Among his nine returns are ones of 79 yards (against Rhode Island) and 66 yards (against Indiana University of Pennsylvania).
"I try and pump myself up every time I'm back there," he said yesterday. "Each time, I may only be a step or two from breaking one, but it's the guys up front who make it happen. My job is to catch the ball and hit the hole as fast as I can.
"With that first wave of tacklers, you look at the gaps, but they close so quickly, you just get in there and look for a crack, a place to run, and I think I have good acceleration. Once in the open, sometimes it's a footrace and sometimes the defender has the angle on you, and you have to look to see if there is an open lane."
Last year, his first at Towson State after attending Prince George's Community College, he set single-season school records with 33 kickoffs and 716 return yards. A 5-foot-10, 175-pound sprinter, he had a single-game school record of 182 yards at Bucknell, including a season-best 54-yarder, and finished with a 21.7 average after being among the national leaders for much of the season.
The only negative to this talent is that, for the most part, it is used as the result of scoring by the opposition. Last year, the Tigers gave up a school-record 336 points, an average of 30.5, and after yielding 99 points in their last two games, they are on a similar track this season.
A wide receiver and defensive back coming out of Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Blair wasn't sure about going to college. He eventually enrolled at PG, and now says it made a big difference. "It helped my academics, because I had to be more book-oriented than I had been in high school."
Bryan Brouse, a Towson State assistant coach at the time, had recruited Blair out of high school and stayed in touch with him, urging him to keep good grades.