Anthony Blaylock said seeing his football coach at Winston-Salem State, Bill Hayes, getting inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame earlier this month was a big deal.
There was a bit of irony for Blaylock, however, because on the day before Hayes was inducted it was Blaylock who was honored by being inducted into the Garner High School Hall of Fame just outside of Raleigh.
“For us to both be honored like that is pretty cool,” said Blaylock, who played for the Rams and Hayes in the mid-1980s before going on to play six seasons in the NFL. “I was glad to be able to be there for him on the night he went into the sports Hall of Fame because it was long overdue.”
Some would say it was long overdue for Blaylock to get into Garner’s Hall of Fame.
Blaylock, 53, came out of Garner a little undersized as a defensive back. When scholarship offers from Division I schools never came, Hayes was there to recruit him.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Blaylock, who was a fourth-round draft pick in 1988 by the Cleveland Browns. “I was up visiting the campus and we were in the cafeteria, and I couldn’t help but notice all the good-looking women roaming around so it was then when Coach offered me a scholarship.”
Blaylock couldn’t help but laugh at how Hayes made the offer. He quickly accepted.
During his four seasons with the Rams from 1984-87, Blaylock was an important player for WSSU’s dominant teams. The Rams won the 1987 CIAA title in his senior season, which was also Hayes’ final season as a coach at WSSU before he left for N.C. A&T.
What Blaylock said Hayes sold him on was the family atmosphere at WSSU and the chance to get noticed by scouts.
“I had these dreams of going to the NFL, and coach Hayes and WSSU made those dreams happen,” Blaylock said.
Blaylock said that, even back in the 1980s, there was a belief scouts from the NFL might never watch players from a small school, but he says that wasn’t the case then and it’s not the case now.
“Back then the NFL wasn’t as sophisticated when it comes to scouting, but one thing about the league is they will find you if you can play,” Blaylock said.
Blaylock played four seasons with the Browns and also played with the San Diego Chargers. His career ended in 1993 with the Chicago Bears. In 71 career games, he had six career interceptions, five sacks and a fumble he recovered and returned for a touchdown.
And the success Blaylock had in the NFL, he carried over into the business world.
“Coach Hayes always stressed that football wouldn’t be there for us our entire life and we listened to him,” said Blaylock, who is president and CEO of The Blaylock Group, a development and construction firm in Atlanta.
Blaylock is a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is a firm believer in helping his community with programs for children. He’s done so much for Atlanta, the city held Anthony Blaylock Day in his honor a few years ago.
At Garner High School, Blaylock helped lay the foundation for a program that has made the state playoffs 32 straight years. He wound up being captain for Hal Stewart, a Hall of Fame coach at Garner. It was Stewart’s first season at the school, and Blaylock took a leadership role right away.
“It’s just an honor for me to go into my high school Hall of Fame,” Blaylock said. “That’s where it all started for me, and it got better for me as I went into college and then into the NFL.”