Texans’ Ross Blacklock among bumper crop of Houston-area talent

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New Houston Texans defensive tackle Ross Blacklock grew up with a basketball in his hand. His father, Jimmy, played at the University of Texas before performing with the Harlem Globetrotters from 1974 to 1987. Jimmy coached the team for more than 10 years as well.

Even though Blacklock first dunked a basketball when he was 13 years old, he couldn’t resist the call to football. He joked that “basketball was just too soft” for him, and said he used to always foul out when he was playing in AAU games.

“I’d come off football season and go straight to basketball,” Blacklock said at the NFL combine. “Sometimes I’d be too aggressive, and I was like, ‘Dang, this is just too soft for me sometimes.’ But it’s a good sport. I’m glad I got into it. But I just like the physicality of [football]. You’ve got to be tough.”8

It’s no shock that Blacklock, now 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, eventually found his way onto the gridiron instead of the hardwood. He did grow up in Texas, perhaps the country’s foremost high school football hotbed, where 33 of the players picked in the draft last week grew up, by far the most of any state. It was the first time Texas led all states in players drafted since 2016.

Blacklock, who went to Elkins High School in Missouri City, was one of 13 players from a Houston-area high school who was drafted last week.

“The feeling is so surreal, being from the city, representing and playing for my favorite team growing up as a child,” Blacklock tweeted after he was drafted. “The love I have for this city and the love it gives back is unreal!”

The Texans have drafted a local player in each of the past four drafts (Blacklock, fullback Cullen Gillaspia in 2019, linebacker Duke Ejiofor in 2018 and running back D’Onta Foreman in 2017).

“We have a lot of talent in this area,” Elkins football coach Dennis Brantley said. “Even a lot of college coaches when they come by say, ‘Man, this is probably the only place that I can come in … and I can fill up almost my whole team, just in this area.’”

In the past three years, there have been 27 players from the Houston area selected in the NFL draft, and many more have signed with teams as undrafted free agents. Part of the reason for the talent level in Houston, several area high school coaches believe, is how quickly the area is growing.