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Who is Julian Blackmon? Former basketball star made smooth transition from cornerback to safety

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Utah’s Julian Blackmon (23) runs an interception back for a touchdown during the second half of the Utah-BYU football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. Blackmon made the transition from cornerback to safety this past season and now finds himself a strong candidate to be selected in the 2020 NFL draft.

Colter Peterson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Back when he was a basketball star for Layton High School and winning a state championship, Julian Blackmon probably never dreamed he’d be playing in the NFL some day.

But Blackmon may find himself on an NFL roster by the end of the weekend it all goes as expected in this weekend’s NFL draft.

The 6-foot-1, 204-pounder was a first-team all-Pac-12 safety this past season, a year after getting all-conference recognition the previous two years as a cornerback.

After losing two safeties the previous year, Blackmon was asked to move back to the safety position and he made the transition nicely and now has a chance to take those skills to the NFL. 

“He’s got the complete package for a safety and he only played it one year,” Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley told the Deseret News. “He’s got range. He’s got ball skills. He’s probably the best tackler that I’ve ever coached, the most efficient tackler that I’ve ever coached. That’s saying something, having come from corner to safety and having to put on 15 pounds.”

Blackmon tied for the league lead with four interceptions last season, including a 39-yard return for a touchdown against BYU.

He was known more for his basketball ability in high school, where he was a first-team all-state player as a senior. He was injured much of his senior season and wasn’t highly recruited, but the Utes saw something special.

“He’s a smart kid who does everything we ask, who sets the tempo in the room as an example,” said Scalley. “He has very good range, very good ball skills, and in terms of coaching the kid, he’s everything you want, ‘yes sir, no sir,’ and gets everything done the way you want it done. He’s a leader, no question.” 

Blackmon didn’t get to participate in drills at the NFL combine because of a noncontact knee injury in the Utes’ Pac-12 championship game against Oregon. But he still showed enough during his Ute career that most draft experts see him going in the fourth or fifth round of the draft.