University of Miami

How a Miami Hurricanes defensive line recruit became one of New York’s top running backs

Jason Blissett poses for a photo in a Miami jersey shortly before receiving his Hurricanes offer in July.
Jason Blissett poses for a photo in a Miami jersey shortly before receiving his Hurricanes offer in July.

The Miami Hurricanes’ Class of 2019 took some hits in the past week, but as multiple players defected from the recruiting class, Jason Blissett doubled down on his commitment.

A three-star defensive tackle in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Blissett announced on Twitter on Thursday he would shut down his recruitment. The senior from Poly Prep Country Day in Brooklyn will sign his National Letter of Intent in December, although he won’t be able to early enroll.

From afar, Miami views Blissett as one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2019. The defensive lineman wrapped up his final high school season Saturday as Poly Prep fell to Rye (N.Y.) Country Day, 34-28, in the Metropolitan Independent Football League championship game. Blissett, for his part, was as good as ever, racking up nine tackles and even running for 90 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

Yes, Blissett isn’t just one of the top defensive linemen in New York. He’s also a highly productive running back, who finished his senior year with more than 400 yards and 11 touchdowns despite fewer than 50 carries. Blissett explains how this came to be — and how a kid from New York decided on the Hurricanes — in a question-and-answer session from Thursday.

Miami Herald: How’d your senior season go?

Blissett: “Personally, I felt like my senior season went well. I felt like a progressed a lot from my junior year, just overall, just being an asset on the field. However, it didn’t really go the way I planned. I really wanted to come home with a championship. Unfortunately, we fell short of that by six points. Just a great game that came down to the fourth quarter and just threw a pick in the red zone when it got close to the end of the game, but I’m proud of my team. I’m really happy as far as we’ve come, but I’m not satisfied with the outcome.”

MH: How’d you end up playing running back?

JB: “When I was younger, in my youth league, I played a little bit of running back and fullback, and when I came to my high school I told them about it and they kind of laughed at the idea. Throughout my three years, they’d always tease me, talking about how I think I’m a running back, but this year, my senior year, we unfortunately lost a lot of players and a lot of athletes that were supposed to be great on our team. So during some conditioning drills, they could see how fast and explosive I was, and they actually threw me out there in the backfield, lined me up at tight end and they just saw that I stood out. I was just one of the bigger, faster guys on the team, so it was like, Why not? And they just didn’t look back.

MH: How’d you end up playing football? It’s not as big up there as it is in Florida.

JB: “My dad actually played football at Temple and could’ve potentially went to the NFL, but he didn’t perform so well in the combine. He loves football, so he introduced me to it at 7 years old and I started off with a local organization and then I switched organizations around 9 and I’ve just been playing since I was 7. I actually took a year off to play basketball because there’s like weight restrictions in the league that I was playing in and it just wasn’t fitting for my lifestyle. I’m a big boy. I like to eat, so it just wasn’t fun for me to play football and have to do that.”

MH: How does a kid from New York wind up with Miami?

JB: “At the beginning of my recruitment, I wasn’t really too sure about going too far from home and things like that. I thought I was going to stay close to home and really represent New York close to home, but my coach ended up helping me get down to Florida, and really just broaden my horizons and just open my horizons to a new world. It seemed to me like the perfect fit and really I just love the decision I made. When I got down there, I just felt at home and really since then I haven’t looked back.”

MH: Is it weird to look back and think you picked the Hurricanes?

JB: “Yeah, it is actually very weird to me. If I would’ve said to my old self, ‘I’m going to be committed to Miami one day,’ I would’ve never believed it. It is really weird for to be committed to Miami and actually, no, I have no ties to Miami. That was my first time down there.”

MH: How did defensive line coach Jess Simpson first get in touch with you?

JB: “He came down to recruit me and my friend Adisa [Isaac], that goes to Canarsie High School in Brooklyn. He came my way because he knew I was one of the better athletes. This was after the Nike Opening and the Rivals thing, and stuff like that. And he knew I was one of the better defensive tackles in the northeastern region, so he came my way after seeing my film, and told me that he wanted me to come down and camp. He invited me down, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to get down there, but between me, and my dad and my coach, we made it happen, so I’m really happy I made it down there.”

MH: Was it important to you to find a school near a major city?

JB: “It felt very familiar and I was really happy that I had that feeling of it. I said a bunch of times that it kind of reminded me of New York, not exactly, but just the city feel and the people around the area. I just got that vibe. It still felt like home. It wasn’t hugely important, but it played a small role.”

MH: Do you have any superstitions on the field?

JB: “My coach actually pointed this out to me and I kind of stuck with it. I can’t wear anything under my pads, no shirt. Nothing. At most, I can wear sleeves, but I don’t play as well when I wear things under my pads.”

MH: You ended up changing numbers from 52 to No. 6 this year. Any reason for it?

JB: “Initially, I was supposed to be five, but they messed up the order and they made five a medium jersey and six a large jersey. They were both too small, but I figured a medium was way too tight, so I was like I might as well be six. I did want a single digit. I didn’t really care what the single digit was.

“The season before I wore 52 and I was very close to that number. ... My freshman through my junior year, I wore 52. It’s just associated with great, dominant defensive players. I felt like I was entitled to that number and really I just had big shoes to fill, and it just worked for me.”

MH: You’ve said a few times you want to be a federal agent if you don’t go the NFL. Why?

JB: “I actually have military history in my family. My aunt was actually in the Navy. My uncle is part of the NYPD and so is one of my aunts, so I grew up watching a lot of ‘Law & Order’ with my cousins and my grandparents. It just seemed so cool to me. It was just something that called out to me. I didn’t think I was going to be like a lawyer or a doctor. I knew I would be something that was exciting or that got my adrenaline pumping, and I figured that was it.”

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