Back in the backfield
Golden Eagles hope Blackwell is the answer at tailbackPosted: Sunday August 10, 2003 5:08 PM
Updated: Sunday August 10, 2003 5:16 PM
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) -- Southern Mississippi's prodigal tailback has returned.
Timmy Blackwell is back after being dismissed from the team in the spring of 2002 by coach Jeff Bower for being a discipline problem.
"I realized this is what I wanted to do. This is my calling -- to play football," Blackwell said Sunday during Golden Eagles media day.
Blackwell was moved from wide receiver to tailback before his sophomore season in 2000 and eventually moved into the starting lineup. He showed some flashes of ability at his new position. He scored three touchdowns in his first career start and gained 97 yards on 24 carries in his second.
But eventually he lost his starting job and got himself suspended for breaking unspecified team rules. When he didn't show up for spring practice, Bower gave him the boot.
Blackwell looked into transferring to Alabama State last year -- he even got a jersey -- but decided the Southwestern Athletic Conference school wasn't for him.
So, he went to work at one of his father's grocery stores in Alabama. Bagging groceries, he realized that he needed to get back to school and back on the football field.
He was spotted around Southern Miss last December and re-enrolled for the spring semester.
"I think I've matured," Blackwell said. "If coach Bower didn't think I matured I don't think he'd have given me the opportunity to come back."
Blackwell was back on the field in the spring and Bower has had no complaints with the 190-pound junior since.
But having been burned before, the coach is still cautious.
"I think he's doing better than he's ever done, but the book on Timmy is -- and this is something I've talked to him about quite often -- he's a roller coaster," Bower said. "He's up and down. And when things are good, that's when you really got to be concerned because he's fallen off that map before. He's got to be consistent with his behavior and doing everything right."
Blackwell is currently the No. 2 tailback behind James Walley as Southern Miss searches for a replacement for departed star Derrick Nix.
Walley was limited to seven games last season because of injuries. He came on strong at the end of the season and earned a start in the Houston Bowl after Nix was sidelined with a kidney disease.
Solidly built at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Walley is a tough inside runner.
If all goes well, Blackwell's quickness and receiving skills will make a fine complement to Walley and fullback Anthony Harris, who was second on the team in rushing last season with 324 yards. And -- for now -- all is going well.
"Good to be back," Blackwell said with a wide grin, "good to be back."