• Brian L. Barefield

Former UT Basketball Player Paves The Way For Black Athletes Including Texans 2020 NFL Draft Pick

As the cameras began to roll in the home of TCU defensive lineman Ross Blacklock, sitting to his left was an older gentleman whose demeanor expressed that of a person who never rattles under pressure and always seems to have control of every situation. That man was former University of Texas basketball star Jimmy Blacklock , his dad.

The Houston Texans selected the younger Blacklock with the 40th overall pick in the second-round of 2020 NFL Draft. As he spoke with the media afterwards, he made sure to acknowledge his dad for his upbringing.

"My dad, he's a pioneer, he's a walking legend,” said Blacklock. “He doesn't talk about it as much as I do.”

Jimmy Blacklock was a high school superstar on the basketball court at Jack Yates High School and continued playing the game he loved at Tyler Junior College for two years. It was his outstanding play that caught the eye of University of Texas basketball coach Leon Black whose teams had been less than stellar since he arrived in Austin, Texas. He made Blacklock the second African-American player on the team behind Sam Bradley who had integrated the UT basketball program one year earlier.

To put it modestly, the Longhorn basketball program thrived under Blacklock. He led them in scoring his first year on campus at 16.6 points per game during the 1970-71 season and was named team MVP. Blacklock elevated the program to new heights the following season. Earning team captain honors in his senior year, Blacklock led the Longhorns to 19-wins and their first share of the Southwest Conference championship in seven years. Yet all his accomplishment were not without scrutiny as racism ran rampant in the South during those times.

Coach Black would hear protests by league referees who were being informed by opposing coaches that Blacklock’s first step was too quick for it not to be a violation (traveling). Those complaints led to Blacklock giving up his starting point guard spot but was still named the team captain by Black.

“Those two years in Austin, however, weren’t always joyful,” Blacklock said in an interview with “I was recruited because "they needed not just a player, they needed a good black player."

Not only did Blacklock endure racism on the road where he played at some venues where individuals didn’t want “Black” people, much less, black athletes anywhere near them, he had to deal with discrimination on his own team. Remember that UT’s basketball program had only been integrated for three years even though their program had been in existence since the since 1906. Blacklock once had a bug left in his drink by an assistant coach and teammate, yet those things didn’t stop him from earning his degree in business administration from UT.

The determination to overcome adversity is what Jimmy has instilled in his son Ross. That character trait was very much needed when Ross tore his Achilles his sophomore year at TCU and was out for the entire season. This came on the heels of having an outstanding freshman year where he earned Freshman First-Team All-American and Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year honors.

“I spent more time in film even though I couldn't be there most of the time because due to my injury I couldn't walk for a while,” said Ross Blacklock about his 2018 injury. “Once I got back I was always active with the guys, I was always watching film with them as if I was still playing that season, just another coach on the side. I get most of that maturity from my father, my parents. I grew up in a great home, they taught me well.”

Although Jimmy Blacklock was a superstar basketball player in high school and college, a skill that would eventually lead him to a career with the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters as a player and now a coach, he never forced his son into the sport.

“Growing up with him [Jimmy Blacklock], basketball just wasn't my first love,” said the 2019 First-Team All-Big 12 selection. “Football was always my first love. I thought basketball was just too soft for me. I always used to foul out when I played AAU and stuff like that. I think my dad created a legacy in basketball for our family, so I think I was meant to do it for football. I'll be the first person in my family to be in the NFL, so this is a pretty good start for me."

What the Houston Texans will be getting in Blacklock is a young man who thrives off of the “Underdog Mentality” (his own brand) and the perfect example his father set as the blueprint to be successful in life.

“He’s just inspiring to me,” Blacklock said in 2019 at Big 12 Media Day . “I try to do everything as hard as he works, I try to do everything to mirror him. He taught me how to play sports, he taught me everything, so he’s a great mentor, a great father.”

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