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Blair right back where he belongs

Right back where he started

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Jimmy Blair has taken a long and winding road to get there, but the one-time standout runningback at Lejeune (N.C.) High School is finally back where he started - in the backfield.

As a junior, he starred for his high school team in Jacksonville, N.C., catching the eye of UAB head coach Watson Brown. Blair rushed for 1,689 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior for coach Tom Childs, and was the second-leading rusher in Onslow County. He scored the game-winning touchdown for his team's Homecoming game that year.
   
Blair was well on his way to an even greater season as a senior, and was one of the players that all of eastern North Carolina was talking about. He gained 169 yards in the 2006 season opener, and had 120 yards in the second game before a broken right leg ended his prep career.
   
Still named first-team all-conference, Blair was still on Brown's radar for the Blazers and the two-sport standout committed to play at UAB.   

When Watson Brown took the head coaching post at Tennessee Tech, Blair was interested in following him to Cookeville but decided to honor his commitment to the Birmingham school.
   
"I had committed to UAB, so I felt I should go there even though coach Brown was going to Tech," Blair explains. "They had some depth issues in the secondary, so they moved me to safety. I was a redshirt my first year, then didn't play any my second year."
   
And hat's what led Blair to make the transfer to the Golden Eagles. He came to Tech this summer projected as a safety, but after a week in camp, Brown has moved the 6-1, 200-pound Blair back to runningback.
   
"I originally recruited Jimmy as a runningback," Brown said. "That's his natural position. He can play safety, but he would be behind because he has so much to learn there.
   
"I think he can be really good as a runningback. He is strong and has good speed. The only question now is how quickly he can learn before he's right there in the mix," Brown said.
   
On Tuesday, in just his second practice out of the backfield for the Golden Eagles, Blair busted through a tough Golden Eagle defensive line and went 36 yards for a touchdown, to the delight of his new offensive mates.
   
"Sitting out my senior season, and not playing the last two years has been just horrible," Blair says. "I am so ready to play. I have never been more ready. I'm anxious to see the field."
   
The feel of the football cradled in his muscular arms will come back quickly. Learning the terminology and the system will be Blair's focus for the coming weeks.
   
"This is my natural position," Blair says. "The blocking and the protection are the same. What I need to learn now is the names."

Free food and drink

With to he regular season opener just over two weeks off, the Golden Eagles will hold their second scrimmage Saturday at 1 p.m. in Tucker Stadium. Fans are not only invited to watch the action, but will get the bonus of free food at the annual Gathering of Eagles picnic.
   
Gates open at 12:30 p.m., and fans can enjoy free food and drinks throughout the scrimmage. Fans can also pick up a free copy of the team's 2009 poster and pocket schedules, and the 2009 Golden Eagle Football Media Guide will be on sale.
   
After the scrimmage, the coaches and players will be available to sign autographs and meet with fans. Season tickets will also be on sale at the picnic, which will be held inside Tucker Stadium.
   
For more information, please call (931) 372-3940.

Donegan ready to handle kicking duties

A year ago at this time, Tim Donegan wasn't even on the Tennessee Tech football team. It wasn't until the first week in September last year that Donegan became a walk-on member of the squad. But a lot has changed in the past year, and now the redshirt-freshman kicker is slated as Tech's starter for kickoffs and long field goals, and Donegan has a chance to be Tech's full-time kicker by the time it's all said and done.
   
Donegan came to Tech in hopes of earning a walk-on spot last fall, and did just that. However, he didn't play in 2008 and took a redshirt season. But with the departure of former kicker Justin Kraemer, and an injury to incoming freshman Kevin Roberts in the offseason, Donegan is slated for his share of Tech's kicking duties in 2009.
   
"Last year I was always fighting for a spot, I was working towards getting on the field," Donegan said. "It definitely has a different feeling this year knowing that I'll be playing."
   
Donegan, a former soccer player, has caught on to football quickly, considering he has only been playing the sport for two years.
   
"I only played football my senior year of high school," Donegan said. "The football coach came to me the third week of the season and said they needed a kicker. I was a soccer player at the time, and I decided to give it a try. After that I started working really hard at it, working on my accuracy and consistency."
   
It appears his soccer talent has translated to the football field, and his hard work is beginning to pay off.
   
"We're already better at the positions he will be playing than we were last year," Tech coach Watson Brown said. "He's still in a battle for PAT's and short to mid-range field goals, but right now he is our starter for kickoff's and long field goals."