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Sep 15, 2023

Will Blackston | Small Town Dreams

By: Chris Perry

Note: The following appears in the Florida Atlantic football gameday program.

Growing up 22 miles southeast of Clemson, Will Blackston always dreamed of playing football in Death Valley. Now in his final season, it is safe to say that Tiger football has helped fortify his goals and dreams.

Blackston grew up in Belton, S.C., a small town with a population of less than 4,500 people.

“It’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s a really small town where everyone knows everyone.”

Blackston attended Belton-Honea Path High School, commonly known as “BHP.” He had an illustrious athletic career there, lettering in multiple sports. As a freshman, he played soccer, and as a senior, he threw the shot put in track & field. He also played football and competed in weightlifting all four years.

“Training for weightlifting helped out my football career a lot. Being able to stay strong and physically fit in the offseason and still being able to compete in competitive events was a lot of fun.”

Blackston experienced success in weightlifting, but it was clear that his first love was football. This love was cultivated by his father, who was the head coach of the Bear football team.

“He’s been coaching football my entire life. BHP football was the only thing I knew. He taught me everything I knew. He was my strength coach. He’s had a huge impact on my athletic career.”

Throughout his football career, Blackston spent time on both offense and defense as a tight end and defensive lineman. It was not until his senior year that he decided to commit to playing the position of tight end. His success, particularly on the offensive side, was noticed when he was selected to participate in the Shrine Bowl.

It was through this recognition phase that he started to receive looks and offers from Division I, II and III schools. Eventually, former Tiger Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables attended a BHP practice, and Blackston was offered a preferred walk-on spot on the team.

With his mother having attended Clemson and weighing the opportunities that a Clemson education would provide, it was clear he would accept the offer.

“I took some time to think about it, went through all my options and knew that would be the best one. I knew Clemson would have the structure to help me get a good education while also having as much fun as I can on the field.”

Having been a part of Clemson University and Tiger football for four years, Blackston has taken advantage of the opportunities the program has afforded him. One of the most important opportunities he has embarked on is becoming a P.A.W. Journey ambassador.

“It’s a leadership initiative for the team that helps prepare you to be a man in college, while also preparing you for success outside of college. I’ve learned so much. I’ve made my full resumé. I’ve learned how to make connections, and it’s given me the skills necessary for whatever my plans are later in life.”

The tight end is majoring in health science and is planning on applying to Clemson’s accelerated nursing program after graduating. He hopes to work as a nurse for a few years and then apply to nurse practitioner school. This past summer, he interned for over 180 hours at Clemson Health Clinic in Walhalla.

“I’ve been interested in health care my entire life, but I’ve never known exactly what field I wanted to enter into. I’ve had some great mentors on campus to guide me to what I wanted to do.”

Whatever Blackston pursues after college, it is clear that both his time growing up in Belton and his time at Clemson have helped him accomplish many of the goals and dreams he has set and is still chasing.