SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Robert Blanton of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish returns an interception 82-yards while playing the Michigan State Spartans during the second half September 17, 2011at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 31-13. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
We've moved into the fifth round of our look at the Minnesota Vikings' 2012 NFL Draft class, and today will take a look at the only player the Vikings selected in that round, Notre Dame defensive back Robert Blanton.
Blanton made a very quick impact upon his arrival at Notre Dame, starting the final four games of his freshman season of 2008 at the cornerback spot after spending the majority of the season as a reserve. He ended up with two interceptions that season, including one that he returned 47 yards for a touchdown against Purdue. That made him just the fifth freshman in Notre Dame's long history to have an interception for a score. Blanton started eight of twelve games as a sophomore as well, nabbing two more interceptions with two more pass deflections.
As a junior in 2010, Blanton was sixth on the team in tackles, and was third on the team in tackles for loss with 8.5. He was moved around quite a bit by the Irish defense that season, including seeing time at both cornerback spots, both safety spots, and even as a linebacker in Notre Dame's contest against Army. He once again had two interceptions, and added five other pass break-ups in addition to that. He also had a blocked kick that was returned for a six-yard touchdown against Utah. In Notre Dame's Sun Bowl performance against the University of Miami, Blanton grabbed one of the Irish's four interceptions on the afternoon (Vikings' first round pick Harrison Smith had the other three).
Blanton started all thirteen games for the Irish in 2011, racking up a career-high 70 tackles on the season, including eight tackles for loss. He intercepted. . .you guessed it. . .two passes, and added five other deflections on the season. One of his two interceptions included one of the longest returns in Notre Dame history, an 82-yarder against Michigan State.
The interception is toward the end of the video, but the Michigan State game was an impressive one for Blanton all around.
For his Irish career, Blanton recorded 195 tackles (120 solo) with 2.5 career sacks and 20.5 career tackles for loss. He had eight career interceptions and 16 other passes defended during his career. Even though he spent much of his time for the Irish at cornerback, at about 6'1" and 210 pounds, he projects as more of a safety in the National Football League. There's a pretty good chance that, in the near future, Blanton and Harrison Smith could comprise an all-Irish safety tandem for the Minnesota Vikings. Like many other rookies, however, Blanton's first impact will likely be on special teams and as a role player on the defensive side of the ball.