Quin Blanding was always a blue-chipper. He was a five-star football recruit coming out of high school, where he played safety and four offensive positions. He was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year as a true freshman, and last year he broke the University of Virginia's program record for career tackles.
Analysts expected him to be selected in the later rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, but to some surprise, the blue-chipper went undrafted.
Now an undrafted free agent signed with the Washington Redskins, Blanding, a Virginia Beach native, is only interested in proving himself as he competes for an NFL roster spot.
"I'm just ready to work. That's the bottom line," Blanding said at the Redskins' rookie minicamp last week. "Like Coach said this morning, this is everyone's step in the door. No matter how you get there, that's how you do it and how long you last. That's what I'm here to do, is to last."
Before the draft, the Redskins had little depth at safety behind projected starters Deshazor Everett and DJ Swearinger. Su'a Cravens was traded to Denver and DeAngelo Hall was not re-signed.
The team drafted Troy Apke from Penn State in the fourth round, but head coach Jay Gruden said he and his staff were "absolutely" surprised that Blanding was available after the draft.
"We were glad he was there. We ended up getting Apke in the fourth round so we kind of were done with the safety position in the draft, but we knew we had to bring a couple more in for free agency and we're glad that he was there," Gruden said. "We had a draftable grade on him for sure. He was very productive at Virginia and showed up in the Senior Bowl, so he's got a great chance to stick around."
Blanding said "everything was up in the air" for a short time, but he got the call from Washington the day after the end of the draft.
"This is a great organization. I just can't wait to keep proving myself," Blanding said.
What Blanding has proven already is his talent for making stops. He recorded at least 115 tackles in each of his four seasons at Virginia. Combined with his 6-foot-2 size and less impressive 4.63 40-yard dash time, NFL scouts feel he will be more effective in the box than in coverage and therefore project him as a strong safety.
That should bode well for his chance at playing time, because Apke is more of a free safety.
Blanding's new positional coach with Washington, defensive backs coach Torrian Gray, held the same position for 10 years at Virginia Tech. Blanding had conversations with Gray during his college recruitment process.
"He's full of energy. He knows a lot about the game. And as you can see, the product from what he did at Virginia Tech with what he did with his DBs there," Blanding said. "I'm ready to learn from him, I'm ready to be coached and turn my game over again."
The Redskins also double-dipped on Virginia Tech defensive players in the draft — defensive lineman Tim Settle and cornerback Greg Stroman. But the college rivalry between the Hokies and Blanding's Cavaliers is behind them as far as the safety is concerned.
"That's over. We're a brotherhood now and we're a team," Blanding said. "Whatever happened in the past is the past and I look at those guys as my brothers now and I'm ready to work with them."
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