With the college bowl season in full swing and the playoffs beginning on New Year's Eve, we talk with Todd Blackledge about his love of both football and food, and how he defines true success.
Q: You experienced tremendous success in college, winning the Davey O’Brien award for the nation’s top QB in 1982 and then becoming a top ten draft pick in the NFL the following year. What helped you achieve such athletic success?
A: “First of all, when I was a sophomore at Penn State, I committed my life to following and serving Jesus Christ. This life decision didn't magically make me a great player, but it totally transformed my mindset and motivation about why I play and who I play for. In addition to a different focus, I still maintained a previous attitude about work ethic. My dad passed along a phrase when I was a young athlete that has remained a mantra for me as a player and coach: "Work will win when wishing won't."
Q: You’ve had over a decade of experience working as a college football analyst. What was the most memorable game you had the opportunity to cover?
A: “I have had the privilege of calling so many great games, but I would have to say broadcasting the Ohio State - Alabama game last season in the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff was the best. Not only was it a memorable game on a grand Sugar Bowl stage, with a huge television audience, but I thought our entire broadcast production crew was on point from start to finish. It was a terrific television broadcast and the best overall work we have ever done as a team.”
Q: You’re also known for your “Taste of the Town” segments during games. What gave you the idea for the segment, and to eventually write a book about your eating experiences on the road?
A: “Well, my passion for food was where it started! That was then coupled with my interest in finding popular, local places in college towns I was visiting rather than settling for chain restaurants. I thought it might be a good idea to feature some of these places within the game broadcast. Taste of the Town really struck a chord with people and the segment became very popular almost immediately. The success of the segment led to the book idea.”
Q: Now you’ve switched gears to the hardwood to become the Head Coach for the varsity basketball team at your Alma Mater (Hoover High, Canton, OH). What made you decide to enter the world of coaching?
A: “Coaching is in my DNA. My dad was a football coach (high school, college, NFL) for over 40 years, so I grew up in it. I've run QB training schools, and coached Little League baseball for many years. Basketball was always my favorite sport growing up and all through high school. I spent 8 years as a varsity assistant at Hoover before being hired as the head coach last year. I love the game, and I love to compete, but the main reason I went for the job was for the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of my players and their families and help to grow boys into men.”
Q: You’ve experienced quite a bit of success both on and off the court. What would you say defines success to you?
A: “I believe that in most endeavors, whether they be sports-related or otherwise, the only two things that we can control 100% of the time are our effort and attitude. So to me, success is knowing that you have given all you can possibly give to the task at hand, and you have done it in a way that glorifies God, respects your opponent, and honors the game.”
Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to a young athlete hoping to get a college scholarship?
A: “First of all, it is ok to have goals for the future, but make sure you live in the present and enjoy the journey and the relationships built along the way. Secondly, play and practice every day like it is the last day you will ever get to play. You never know when that last day will come, so erase all regret. Finally, when you get to the point of choosing a school, be realistic and pick the school that fits you the best regardless of whether it is Division 1, 2 or 3. Pick where you think you will be happiest (academically, socially, and geographically) for the next 4 or 5 years of your life no matter what happens in your athletic career.”
Todd Blackledge is the Head Coach for the Hoover High boys’ basketball team, but he’s known most for the sport of football. As a standout quarterback, he guided Penn State to the 1982 National Championship and also won the Davey O’Brien award for the nation’s best college QB. From there he went on to spend 6 years in the NFL with the Chiefs and Steelers. Blackledge is also known for covering college football games for ESPN. He has written a book on his food experiences on the road covering college football entitled “Taste of the Town: A Guided Tour of College Football’s Best Places to Eat.” Follow him on Twitter @Todd_Blackledge .