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Pitt's Blades waiting to hear name called in draft

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

H.B. Blades has been waiting for the moment his entire football-playing career, yet there will be something routine for him about this weekend's NFL Draft.

"It feels like I've gone through this three times already," Blades said. "Now, it's my turn."

The celebration started quickly in 1988, when his father, Bennie, was chosen third overall by the Detroit Lions. His uncle, Brian, was selected 46 six picks later, in the second round, by the Seattle Seahawks.

Blades remembers the draft-day wait in 2001 with his late uncle and mentor, Al, who wasn't picked but signed as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers.

H.B. is the next Blades waiting for his name to be called by an NFL team, somewhere between what his uncles Brian and Al experienced. For the former Pitt All-America linebacker, it's another branch in his family tree to climb.

"That's not a bad club (to join) at all," he said. "Growing up, I rooted for my dad and my uncles. Just to play in the NFL will be a dream come true."

For Blades, the draft is just a matter of when he is picked and by whom. analyst Gil Brandt, who picked the 5-foot-11, 240-pound Blades for the Playboy All-American team, believes he has a chance to be selected late in the third round.

"He's not the tallest guy in the world, but he is a tough, physical football player," Brandt said. "He knows how to play. He takes good angles. He's a tough competitor. You get outstanding production from the guy. I don't think he can play outside. He has to be a middle linebacker."

Blades knows he will be chosen based on his production, not measurable characteristics. He finished fourth nationally with 147 tackles last season and ranks third all-time in school history with 409. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big East selection and was named 2006 Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

"I've always been a productive player. I don't think that's going to change," Blades said. "People keep doubting me, but I've proven people wrong my whole life."

For example, Blades ran faster 40-yard dash times (4.69 and 4.72 seconds) than scouts expected at Pitt's Pro Day. He also believes that his versatility - he played outside and inside linebacker, as well as on nearly every special teams unit - will distinguish him from other linebackers.

"It all comes back down to film," Blades said. "Some guys look real good with their shirt off, but that doesn't mean they can play."

Not only does Blades have the motivation to play in the NFL, he has inspiration to provide for his twin 2-year-old daughters, Aalyiah and Takaia. Blades believes they have contributed to his maturity, which could help separate him from others as the NFL cracks down on player behavior.

"When you're looking at me, it's pretty much just as a player," Blades said. "I'm one of the players that's not going to embarrass the organization off the field. They know that. They do background checks on everything possible. They know who the character guys are and who the bad apples are. On draft day, that's what's going to separate one guy from another. I'm ready to get everything over with and start playing football again."

Picking the Panthers
A handful of former Pitt football players have a chance of being selected in this weekend's NFL Draft. Here is a look at where they are projected to go, according to analyst Gil Brandt:
Player Pos. Outlook
Darrelle Revis CB 1st rd., picks 10-20
H.B. Blades ILB 3rd-5th rd.
Tyler Palko QB 5th-7th rd.
Clint Session OLB 7th rd./free agent
Adam Graessle P 7th rd./free agent
Joe Villani C Free agent

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