The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 44 is offensive guard Justin Blalock.
Years played for Falcons: The epitome of dependability, Justin Blalock played from 2007 to 2014 with the Atlanta Falcons. The former consensus All-American and 2006 national champion while at Texas was the 39th overall selection in the 2007 draft; one of seven Longhorns selected that year. Atlanta needed stability along its offensive line and wisely selected Blalock in the second round after he set a school-record with 51 consecutive starts as a Longhorn. While playing for head coach Mack Brown, Blalock wasn’t only a standout on the field but in the class room as well. He was a member of the UT Athletics Director's Honor Roll in fall 2004. He was also one of five finalists for the 2002 Watkins Award, which is presented to the nation's top African-American high school scholar-athlete. Blalock graduated in December 2006 with his degree in youth and community studies and a minor in business.
Jersey No.: 63
His impact on the team: Much like his time in college, Blalock instantly became a cornerstone for the Falcon offense, starting in an NFL-leading 102 games at guard before missing a Week 5 tilt against the Giants in 2014. Overall during his Falcon career, he started 125 games and was a part of five winning seasons, four playoff appearances, two division championships and one NFC championship game appearance. Blalock never made the Pro Bowl in his NFL career but he helped block for plenty of players that have ended up in Pro Football’s All-Star game. Blalock paved running lanes for Michael Turner every game during his two All-Pro and Pro Bowl seasons (2008, 2010). Turner totaled 6,081 rushing yards and 60 touchdowns in his five years in the Atlanta. Off the field, Blalock has been known for his charitable work. The Justin Blalock Foundation has targeted Greater Dallas and Greater Atlanta area students ages 12 – 18. The Foundation’s mission sets out to use athletics and academics as tools and motivators to develop young men and women and strengthen family relationships. He also has held an annual camp in the Dallas area. Blalock was released this offseason on Feb. 27 and on June 15 he decided to hang up his cleats.
On coaching his annual camp: “At my camp, we’ve always tried to do something outside the box so we aren’t harping on football all day long. In the end, it is a football camp, but I want the kids to understand how important it is to be well-rounded. I want to give them all the tips and tricks that I can but for those that don’t make it in football to the college and professional levels I want them to stress the other things whether it be academics or culture so you have something else going for you in your life.”
On how he stayed so durable throughout his career: “Somewhere in rebuilding your body and unwinding in the offseason is a happy medium. You definitely have to get away for some time. This game will take its toll on you on your body and your mind. It is important to unplug but at the same time you have to keep building your body up to withstand the punishment of the season. There a lot of things that factor in like nutrition, sleeping habits and luck and I also have a lot of people back home that praying for me so I’ve been blessed.”
Where he is now: Blalock, 31, is back home in Plano Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He starred at Plano East High School and was the No. 1 offensive lineman prospect in the nation his senior year some 13 years ago. Even after retiring, Blalock is still active in his community and has held an annual football camp for kids in the area looking to not only improve as players but as people as well.
50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler