The outlook appeared grim when Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of Sunday’s NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. Higbee’s injury left the Rams with only one tight end on the roster: Kendall Blanton.
But Blanton performed admirably in Higbee’s stead, giving the Rams the spark they needed to beat the 49ers, 20-17, and punch their ticket to Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals.
>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<
Blanton, a third-year undrafted free agent out of Missouri — who never had more than four catches in a game in college — recorded career highs with five receptions for 57 yards against the 49ers, including an important eight-yard reception on third-and-1 as the Rams were driving late in the fourth quarter. That drive resulted in a field goal, which broke a 17-17 tie and proved to be the difference in the contest.
Former #Mizzou TE Kendall Blanton (@TheKspecial_) is headed to Super Bowl LVI after a career night in the NFC Championship game.
5 catches | 57 yards pic.twitter.com/RUqIV7CB8C
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) January 31, 2022
The 26-year-old Blanton has spent most of his professional career on the Rams’ practice squad. His role increased this season after he was elevated to the active roster in October, recording his first career reception against these same 49ers in a 31-10 loss in November, and finishing the regular season with four receptions for 37 yards.
Blanton played sparingly in the Rams’ wild-card win against the Arizona Cardinals, but a week ago in the divisional-round victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Blanton caught two passes for 18 yards. One of them was his first-ever NFL touchdown.
WHAT A TIME for Kendall Blanton's first career touchdown! 🙌
📺 @SNFonNBC | @TheKspecial_ pic.twitter.com/1AVleuXGZn
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 23, 2022
“First and foremost, I just want to thank God for my journey,” Blanton said after that game. “Everything that I’ve gone through, even being undrafted, I think that was a blessing because it put me here and put me with this team and these coaches, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Blanton speaks often about God on his Twitter account and calls himself a “follower of 1” in his bio with a cross emoji.
Capital G in God but facts!!! https://t.co/KfCXJc1Cp0
— KB🃏 (@TheKspecial_) January 27, 2022
I’ll keep saying it…..LOOK AT GOD…..we Super Bowl bound baby‼️‼️‼️‼️ @RamsNFL
— KB🃏 (@TheKspecial_) January 31, 2022
On Sunday morning before facing the 49ers again, Blanton took to Twitter to declare that God is good and that he’s getting to experience what he’s dreamed about his whole life.
God is good…I’m telling you! Games like this all used to be a dream and now I’m living in it 🙏🏾
— KB🃏 (@TheKspecial_) January 30, 2022
In addition to making the most of his opportunity on the football field, Blanton has also leveraged his platform as an athlete to make a difference in his community. He was a favorite volunteer at West Boulevard Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri, mentoring and advising students during his time in college.
Now, he will be suiting up in one of the most-watched sporting spectacles in the world with Higbee’s status still uncertain. Super Bowl LVI will be held on Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Rams’ home field at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
Blanton knows the opportunity is truly gift from God.
– Faith-fueled Cooper Kupp delivers again as Rams reach Super Bowl LVI
– ‘God is good’: Evan McPherson sends Bengals to 1st Super Bowl since 1988
– SS PODCAST: Kevin Nickerson – Los Angeles Rams team chaplain
– Ben Roethlisberger retires: ‘I thank God for allowing me to play [football]’
– OTD: Jan. 30, 2000 – Rams QB Kurt Warner wins Super Bowl MVP, thanks Jesus