In the middle of a whirlwind NFL Draft process, Raheem Blackshear recently took a moment to reflect on his football journey. Blackshear faced himself in the mirror, and at that moment, it all finally sunk in.
“I’m really one step away from being where I’ve wanted to be my entire life,” Blackshear said to himself.
While the twists and turns of his football career haven’t been easy, he is now roughly a week away from the phone call that could change his life forever.
Raheem Blackshear hopes to follow the Deebo Samuel blueprint
Blackshear, a 5-foot-9, 198-pound playmaker, is a bit of a tweener. While he was listed as a running back during his stints at Rutgers and Virginia Tech, Blackshear has above-average hands and route-running ability.
Given Blackshear’s versatility, NFL teams have projected him as a multi-purpose weapon. Blackshear even compares himself to a reigning All-Pro.
“I look at myself as like a Deebo Samuel,” Blackshear said. “A person who can play running back and slot receiver. Also, I can play special teams, so kick return [and] punt return. Teams have said they want to utilize me all over the field as a running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield and run downhill.”
While Samuel is three inches taller and 17 pounds heavier, Blackshear’s comparison isn’t completely off-base.
During his college career, Blackshear produced 1,912 rushing yards, 1,213 receiving yards, and 21 total touchdowns. In theory, Blackshear — like Samuel — can be utilized creatively in NFL offenses.
“A lot of teams look at me as an all-purpose player,” Blackshear said.
Samuel, a 2019 second-round pick, took a while to find his niche in the San Francisco 49ers’ offense. However, after two years of inconsistent play, he earned his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods last season after producing 1,770 total yards and 14 total touchdowns.
Putting those expectations on Blackshear would be unfair, but the NFL hopeful does like to be challenged.
“You don’t have to worry about me loafing,” Blackshear said. “I’m going to get the job done.”
Learning from the pros
Blackshear grew up playing football in Philadelphia with Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift, Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, and Los Angeles Chargers safety Mark Webb.
He has been quick to call Swift, Pitts, and Webb for advice during the draft process. Blackshear is working out with Swift’s father, Darren, in Philadelphia and still calls Webb his best friend.
Given what Pitts and Webb — his Archbishop Wood Catholic HS teammates — went through during last year’s draft, Blackshear has fresh examples of how to handle the ups and downs of the journey.
“They said the craziest process is just getting on a team,” Blackshear said. “They said you get a little frustrated because you never know where you’re going to for the next couple of years. But they said to enjoy the process.”
Along with Pitts, Webb, and Swift, Blackshear has another NFL mentor in Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert. Like Blackshear, Herbert transferred to Virginia Tech in 2020, and the duo bonded over their shared running back competition.
Following his lone season with the Hokies, Herbert entered last year’s NFL Draft and was selected in the sixth round by the Bears. Herbert quickly became a member of the running back rotation in Chicago and ran for 433 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Blackshear hopes to follow Herbert’s lead, and he has made sure to call him when he has questions about the film and playbook studies he receives from teams ahead of meetings.
“There’s a lot of material thrown at you in the beginning,” Blackshear said. “There are a lot installs that you have to learn. … It’s been like taking a little test.”
The home stretch until draft weekend
Blackshear has received pretty consistent interest from NFL squads throughout the process. He participated in the Philadelphia Eagles’ local workout earlier this month and has met with multiple teams over the past few weeks.
“I’ve been talking to a new team mostly every day, so you learn a lot,” Blackshear said.
Blackshear believes that transferring from Rutgers to Virginia Tech helped him better prepare for the NFL. The move, which he attributes to “personal issues with family,” worked out because of Virginia Tech’s pro-style offense.
Blackshear also credits his partnership and friendship with Herbert as an asset. Herbert’s best advice for his college teammate: “Make sure you pay attention to every little detail.”
And Blackshear is happy to take any advice or information he can get. He claims to be a “sponge” and relishes the opportunity to learn.
Blackshear recently met with Buffalo Bills running backs coach Kelly Skipper, and the experience stood out from his other meetings because of Skipper’s probing questions.
“He was picking my brain pretty well,” Blackshear said. “He put me through a lot of tests and stuff like that … made me look at different formations. I like to be challenged, and he was challenging me, and I really appreciate everything he did for me.”
As Blackshear counts down the days until next week’s NFL Draft, he will continue to reflect on his journey and what’s to come. He hopes the payoff will lead to him playing on Sundays with Webb, Pitts, Swift, and Herbert.
“I’m going to go in and try to take over,” Blackshear said. “I know it’s not going to be given to me … but when my time comes, I’m going to be ready for it.”