ATHENS — Jeb Blazevich has become a formidable piece of the Georgia Bulldogs offense for the 2015 football season. At 6-5, 248 pounds he has become known for his good hands, route running ability, adeptness at finding his way through tight seams of defenders, breaking free from coverage, and catching the ball in traffic.
That talent was on display in the Dawgs’ home opener Sept. 5 against Louisiana-Monroe, as Blazevich started and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass in UGA’s 51-14 romp over the Warhawks.
Last year Blazevich, a freshman and number 83, caught the longest pass of the season – a 50-yard aerial thrown from much-heralded running back Todd Gurley. He also caught two touchdown passes in the game against the Kentucky Wildcats.
The tight end from Charlotte, NC also won a place on the UGA first team offense and started in the last 10 regular season games. He was on the 2014 Freshman All-SEC Team and won the UGA Newcomer of the Year Award.
The gifted receiver’s success at the collegiate level is merely a continuation of his accomplishments as an integral part of the football program with the Charlotte Christian Knights.
Blazevich was the #1 tight end in the nation in the 2014 class, according to Rivals. He helped lead his high school to back-to-back NCISAA Division I State Championships as a junior and senior, including an undefeated record in 2013. He participated in the 2014 Under Armour All-America game.
One of the most notable highlights of his high school career occurred in Jeb’s junior year against archrival Charlotte Country Day School. Charlotte Christian was down by five with less than one minute left in the game. Compounding the challenge facing Blazevich’s team was the fact that it was fourth down with 21 yards to go and he was in triple coverage. The Charlotte Christian quarterback heaved the ball into the end zone and Jeb out-jumped all the defenders, catching the ball to the dismay of the opposing team because they thought they had the game in the “win” column. It was a devastating loss for Country Day and remarkable win for Charlotte Christian.
More than a jock
Those who know Jeb best know him not only as a sterling athlete, but also as a man of faith and integrity. With autumn comes football and faith-filled football players have unique opportunities to let their light shine for Christ. Andrew Kulha of Bleacher Report reminds us that NFL great Reggie White was known as “the minister of defense.” Super-Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner was known for being open about his faith. The same is true of Super-Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy and Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow.
UGA football head coach Mark Richt’s faith has been well documented. Last year The Christian Index published a story about Hutson Mason, UGA quarterback, who gave a strong testimony about his commitment to Jesus Christ.
Numerous college coaches courted Blazevich, but after visiting with UGA tight end coach John Lilly and head coach Richt the North Carolina native decided that Georgia was the place for him. He explained, “I prayed for guidance and asked God to help me discern what was really important and with His help I concluded that I needed to select a school that offered excellent academics, a school that had a winning football program, and a school that was relatively close to home.
“The players and students I met at UGA were amazingly friendly and encouraging. Coach Lilly was one of the major factors in me deciding to become a ‘Bulldog’. He and Coach Richt didn’t try to sell me on the University of Georgia; they just let UGA sell itself.
“They were very professional in their approach to recruiting and provided much helpful information, but gave every evidence that what they really wanted was what was best for me. It was obvious that they were men of faith, because if you walk with Christ that will inevitably show in every area of your life.”
Source of strength
Blazevich indicated that he made a profession of his faith in Christ as a child and said, “All through high school I was doing all the right things, but for all the wrong reasons. But in February of my senior year at Charlotte Christian I genuinely gave my heart to Christ and since then I have been seeking to faithfully follow Him.
“Jesus said, ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’” Blazevich exclaimed, “I have found that verse to be a great source of help and encouragement to me as I seek to walk with Christ.”
Jeb indicated that UGA football Chaplain Thomas Settles has been a source of great encouragement to him as a follower of Jesus Christ. He stated, “His devotionals and Bible studies are very challenging and ‘T. Setts’ does a great job of showing the love and hope that Christ brings.”
As reported in the last issue of The Index, The Freedom of Religion Foundation has issued letters to 20 universities, including the University of Georgia, urging them to disassociate themselves from chaplains involved in the football programs. Blazevich observed, “That is very frustrating. I think they are overstepping their bounds. So far as I know no one has complained about our team having devotions and Bible studies. They are not mandatory and any player can opt out of them if they wish. What our chaplain does is a well received by our team at UGA and no one should threaten to remove it.”
Blazevich added, “We have some very fine Christians on our team and Nathan Theus is one of them. He interacts with the tight ends and is a great encourager. He has a servant’s heart and has a great love for his teammates.
“The fraternity of tight ends at UGA has developed into some very close relationships and while we are highly competitive, we also work hard at encouraging each other to be the best we can be.”
When asked what advice he would give to younger football players, Blazevich replied, “I would urge them to be coachable and humble. Pride goes before a fall, but a little humility goes a long way.”
Kuhla quoted Blazevich as saying, “Christianity is a huge part of my life and that should show in every aspect of my life. On the football field, I always view it as ‘All right, God already knows what’s going to happen. Either I’m going to blow out a knee or catch 90 touchdown passes. All I can control is my effort.”
“So on the field, how I glorify God is just giving my maximum effort all the time and doing the best I can, especially in preparation.”
For people of faith knowing that Jeb Blazevich is a brother in Christ should make watching the “Dawgs’” gridiron contests all the more fascinating this fall.