AUSTIN BLASKE: THE NEW BULLDOG IN TOWN
SEHS Senior, Austin Blaske, has officially signed with the Georgia Bulldogs. The offensive tackle is the fourth offensive lineman of UGA’s 2020 recruiting class, and he is stoked to play between the hedges this fall.
Blaske has been playing football since grade school, and he knew very early on that he felt at home on a football field. “I got involved in third grade, and I fell in love with it as soon as I started playing it,” he recalls. “It’s a brotherhood. I just love the game. I love everything about it.”
Though he started playing football at an early age, he really got down to business after the seventh grade. At that point, his father, Andrew, told him that if he was serious about the sport, it was going to take dedication and commitment.
“At the time, he was just a little skinny guy,” his father recalls. “After his seventh grade year at the middle school, I said, ‘Okay. If you’re serious about this, it’s a 365-day-a-year commitment.’ The kid decided to get after it.”
And that’s exactly what he did. It’s hard to imagine Blaske as a “little skinny guy” now. At six foot six and 298 lbs, he can squat over 600 lbs, and it’s easy to see how dedicated he is to his sport and the physical training it requires.
It’s not just about going to football practice and playing on Friday nights. Blaske’s training schedule is rigorous. While most people are sleeping, Blaske heads to the gym every day at 4:30 in the morning. During the day, he has a weightlifting class, and he has practice after school for track or whatever sport he happens to be participating in at the time.
To say he excels as an athlete would be an understatement. He’s not just a stellar football player. This year, he won the state championship as a heavyweight wrestler, and he also excels in track, where he has qualified for the state meet the past two years in shot put and discus.
Dr. Torian White, principal of SEHS, is especially proud to see Blaske sign with the Georgia Bulldogs. “Austin is an outstanding athlete and an outstanding young man. On behalf of the administrators, coaches, faculty and student body of SEHS, we are excited to see him take on this new opportunity at UGA as a student athlete,” he says. “As a UGA alumnus, I am looking forward to seeing him in the red and black!”
Like Dr. White, Blaske plans to become an educator and eventually come back to teach in the community. He is already preparing for his future career. During school, he coaches and teaches PE at the middle school as part of the work-based learning program.
For now, though, he wants to see how far football will take him. When asked if “going pro” is on his list of goals, he says, “Absolutely. That’s always been the goal. It’s been the goal since knowing I could play college football. After that, I could have a chance to play in the NFL.”
It’s a lofty aspiration to say the least, but Blaske has never shied away from high goals. In fact,one of his secrets to success is setting goals and aiming high. He says it’s not enough to simply have talent. Football has taught him that mental fortitude is just as important as physical strength. “One of the things it’s really taught me is discipline,” Blaske adds. “You’ve got to stick with the game plan...and just keep your head right.”
He knows first-hand that it’s not always easy to keep a positive state of mind. Though the past year has come with many blessings, it has also come with devastating loss. The Blaskes lost their close family friends, Danny and Julie Hagan, in a car accident last year on their way back from a Georgia Southern football game, and their deaths left a huge void for Blaske.
Not only was Danny Hagan a family friend, but he was Blaske’s training companion on a daily basis. “My trainer died,” he explains. “That was really hard on me because he was at the gym every day.”
Blaske says he will never forget a conversation he had with Danny before he died. Even though Hagan was a true-blue GSU fan, he made Blaske promise to consider UGA if the opportunity ever presented itself. At the time, he had already committed to play for North Carolina State; nevertheless, he made that promise.
When Coach Kirby Smart called at the eleventh hour to make an official offer, it seemed unreal. “It was the school of my dreams,” says Blaske. “It’s where I’ve always wanted to go. I was so excited.” It was a no-brainer. Without hesitation, he accepted.
At the signing ceremony, when everyone expected him to sign with N.C. State, he surprised everyone when he pulled out a UGA ball cap and said, “This one’s for you, Danny Hagan.” The crowd erupted in applause as he placed that hat on his head.
For the Blaske’s, the best part of the ceremony was something different. In a packed cafeteria, they looked up from that signing table and saw the Hagan kids, Matthew, Joshua, and Madison, walk in. It was a bittersweet moment, but Blaske’s promise to Danny had been fulfilled.
Now, even though Danny isn’t at the gym with him every morning, Blaske still feels his presence and keeps his memory alive. “I’m always there by myself now, but it’s like he’s still there telling me to keep pushing, keep going, one day at a time,” he says. “He wouldn’t want me to stop working.”
This is one of the reasons he continues to hustle every day, to keep getting better, but he hasn’t done it alone. He thanks his family for their support and his father for coaching him along the way. “He took me to the camps, the visits, hotels...just trying to get me here, helping me with my diet, pushing me to go to the gym, helping me keep my grades up, helping me study,” he says of his dad. “He’s been there for me the whole time. My mom and brother have always beenthere as well.”
With so many amazing coaches over the years, Blaske says he can’t pick a favorite, but he credits SEHS Coach Pfiester with teaching him many invaluable lessons this year, both on and off the field. “He taught me a lot of lessons, but the one I really remember is [to] always get better every day,” he recalls. “Every day he expects you to improve yourself.”
His dream of playing college football has become a reality, not by luck, but by his willingness to work hard and never stop chasing big goals. To anybody who looks up to him, Blaske says the best piece of advice he could give is to always strive to be better.
“Never think that you’re good enough. Always push yourself to be better,” he advises. “The second you say you’re good enough or you can’t get any better is the second you start falling behind. Make sure you’re always hungry and you always want more.”
He’s taking that hunger with him to Athens in hopes of helping the Dawgs in another winning season, and he is excited to learn as much as possible from the coaches at UGA. “They’re great coaches,” he says. “They’re going to tell you like it is. They aren’t going to sugarcoat anything, and I appreciate that.”
“When I get to Athens, the Mustang Nation rides with me, inside of me. I’ll always be a Mustang,” he adds.
As he enters this new chapter with a new team and new coaches, one thing remains the same: his drive and determination to be the best. His willingness to sacrifice and hustle has landed him on one of the best college football teams in the nation. Now, all he has to do is keep up the good work and keep raising the bar. And if the past is any indication of the future, that’s exactly what Austin Blaske is going to do.
Photo Gallery Credit: Tonya Perry
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