Robert Blanton wasn’t watching the final rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft Saturday. In fact, the former Notre Dame cornerback was helping move his sister Whitney’s television into her new apartment in Charlotte, N.C., when his phone rang.
It was the Minnesota Vikings on the other end that called to inform Blanton he was their first selection in the fifth round (139th overall).
There is officially now a pipeline between South Bend, Ind., and Minneapolis, Minn. Blanton joins safety Harrison Smith (29th overall) in Minnesota, as well as current Vikings and Irish products John Carlson (tight end), Kyle Rudolph (tight end) and John Sullivan (center).
“I wasn’t even watching the draft,” Blanton said. “I was helping my brother-in-law and sister move in. She needed some help. I’ve never really watched the draft at all.”
Blanton improved his draft stock considerably at Notre Dame’s Pro Day on April 3. He ran a 4.7-second 40 in Indianapolis and clocked around a 4.55 at Pro Day. He’s considered a safety at the pro level after registering 70 tackles and forcing two fumbles in 2011, many times lining up as the nickel for Notre Dame.
“That was huge,” Blanton said of Pro Day. “I really needed to run a better 40 and show people I’m not a slow guy. It was great because I went out there and got a better time.”
“I think the two guys that really helped themselves as far as [measurements] are Blanton and Darius Fleming,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said on April 3. “I’ve been a believer for a real long time that Blanton’s a real quality safety prospect. Some people think that is a [negative]. It’s not; it’s a compliment. I think he can be a starting safety in the league. I also think he can play all four special teams. He’s a draftable kid who’s a real good value in the middle of the draft.”
Blanton also returned two punts for 27 yards (one for a touchdown) in 2010, averaging 13.5 yards per return. He finished his Irish career with eight interceptions (one returned for a score) and 193 total tackles.
Thrilled to join former teammates in Minnesota, Blanton didn’t think the Vikings were looking for any more help in the secondary.
“It’s awesome; I didn’t know if they were taking any more defensive backs,” he said. “They already had a couple. It was a big surprise and I loved it. We [ND guys] move around, baby.”
Blanton said the Minnesota staff with which he spoke, including general manager , head coach Leslie Frazier and defensive backs coach Joe Woods, liked his “versatility” and “thought I would be a great fit with the team.” He’s thrilled most about moving from uncertainty to a specific destination in the coming months.
“I’m loving that part,” he said. “All that training and hard work and then you just play that waiting game. It’s nice to know where I’ll be going and get back to work and do the thing I love.”
His family members didn’t let him rest long. Following his conversation with the Vikings, he put the phone down and got back to work.
“No, of course not,” Blanton said of whether he would get a brief break after learning he had become a professional athlete. “As soon as I got off the phone we moved the washer and dryer in.”