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The All-American QB helped the now-defunct Jefferson High School team win a state title, and led Ferrum to an unbeaten season.
Photos courtesy of Tracy Callis
Jay Blackwood was part of a national championship Pop Warner team.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Jay Blackwood was a winner on the football field, whether it was in high school, college or even Pop Warner.
Blackwood, a Roanoke native who was once a junior-college All-American quarterback for Ferrum, died June 26 at the age of 73.
“He was a great player,” former Ferrum football coach Hank Norton said Monday in a phone interview.
Blackwood — actually, James Blackwood Jr. — died in a Kentucky rehab facility of complications from multiple sclerosis and a stroke, said his son, James Blackwood III.
He had battled multiple sclerosis since 1992 and suffered a stroke in March. He moved from Roanoke to the Kentucky facility in April.
Blackwood was a quarterback for now-defunct Jefferson High School in Roanoke. As a junior, he started for the Magicians team that won a state title in 1957.
“Jay was a very good quarterback,” former Jefferson teammate Tracy Callis said. “Jay could run the 100 [yard dash] in less than 10 seconds.
“He was just a fantastic athlete. He was just like a deer — elusive, quick, fast. When he’d run the football, he didn’t fake — he just went for the opening. And if somebody got there, he’d just change direction in a flash. He rarely got hit hard.”
The 1957 team, coached by the late Rudy Rohrdanz, lost only one game.
Blackwood played for Ferrum, then a junior college, in 1960 and 1961. Those were the first two seasons of Norton’s legendary Ferrum coaching career.
The Panthers went 5-0-2 in 1960, when Blackwood earned All-America honors.
“He was a very good runner; he was an excellent track man [in high school] in the Roanoke area,” Norton said. “He had all the things you’d look for in a quarterback — he was quick, he could throw the ball, he had speed and he had great vision.
“Without him, we would not have gone unbeaten.”
Ferrum went 6-1-2 in 1961. Blackwood was injured and had to miss the one game the team lost.
Blackwood moved on to NCAA Division I football but had academic issues, said Callis.
For 27 years, Blackwood worked at the Roanoke Regional Airport as an operations agent for Piedmont and US Airways.
Blackwood also enjoyed football success as a child. He was a wingback for Roanoke’s 1951 Pop Warner Football national championship team.
Roanoke was one of four teams that received bids to the 1951 national invitational tournament in Lakeland, Fla., along with New Orleans, Las Vegas and Omaha, Neb. Roanoke sent an all-star team of players from the city’s 100- and 115-pound sandlot leagues. No player was older than 13.
All three games of the tournament were played the night of Dec. 28. Roanoke beat New Orleans 13-0 to earn a spot in the title game. Roanoke and Omaha tied 13-13, but Roanoke won the crown because it had more first downs. The game aired nationally on the radio. When the team returned to Roanoke, it was treated to a parade.
Blackwood is survived by two children, a son-in-law, two grandchildren and a sister.
“Any time you needed help, he was always there,” his son said.
A celebration of Blackwood’s life will be held at noon on July 20 at the L.L. Rice Room of the Jefferson Center.
“Everybody that knew him thought a lot of him,” Callis said.
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