-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tailback LeGarrette Blount has taken an interesting path to his starting job as an NFL running back.
The 188-mile journey from Taylor County High School in Perry, Florida to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay has been anything but ordinary for Blount. In 2005, he first attempted to enroll at Auburn directly out of high school but failed to qualify after receiving very little interest as a two-star recruit. So Blount landed at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss., where he garnered JUCO All-American honors.
Blount signed with the Oregon Ducks over other offers from West Virginia, Florida State and Ole Miss. After a stellar 2008 season in Eugene, in which he rushed for 1,002 yards and 17 touchdowns, Blount became a national headline (and punchline for that matter) at the start of the 2009 campaign when he delivered a right-handed sucker punch to Boise State Bronco linebacker Byron Hout. Blount, who also got involved with BSU fans as he was escorted from the stadium, had totalled -8 yards from scrimmage and was caught for a safety in the loss to Boise State.
He was suspended indefinitely.
After a letter of apology, Blount was reinstated with four games left in the season and ended up playing a key role in the season finale against Oregon State and played in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.
Blount went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft and was eventually signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent. In August of his first NFL preseason camp, Blount again got himself into trouble by throwing another right hook at Titans teammate Eric Bakhtiari. Subsequently, the Titans placed Blount on waivers.
Enter the Tampa Bay Bucs. On September 6, Tampa Bay claimed Blount off of waivers and inserted him into the lineup in Week 3 against Pittsburgh. He scored his first touchdown in his first career game. Three weeks later, Blount topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in his short career. He finished the 2010 season with 201 carries, 1,007 yards and six touchdowns.
Now, four weeks into his second season, the Bucs are riding Blount like the franchise back that he could be. He has carried 49 times in the last two games, and he posted his second-highest yardage total of 127 yards on Monday night in the key win over the Indianapolis Colts. Most importantly, his 35-yard fourth-quarter game-winning touchdown run pushed the Bucs to 3-1 on the young season. His 294 yards are sixth in the NFC.
With loads of mental focus question marks swirling around him for the better part of a decade, Blount has overcome suspensions, poor grades, fighting and depth charts to establish himself as a potential go-to tailback.
Now, we'll see if he can stay out of trouble.