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Bruin grid coach lays out blueprint of program

Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Okla. — Mike Tupa Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Okla.

May 16--By Mike Tupa

mtupa@examiner-enterprise.com

Trust, purpose and partnership.

Those three themes -- often delivered with a thunderous flair -- dominated the presentation at Tuesday's parents/guardians meeting for the Bartlesville High School football team.

"What we're going to do on Friday nights will add to the community," predicted new Bruin head coach Lee Blankenship. "... But, our purpose is to make your young men better men and better fathers."

Blankenship separated the concepts of goals -- which centered around success between the white lines -- and purpose -- which centered on helping developing the character and competency of players for their adult lives.

The hundreds of people in attendance also heard a message from former University of Tulsa/Buffalo Bills' great Jerry Ostroski.

Ostroski likened the current state of Bartlesville High football to that of Bixby High, back in the early 2010's.

Bixby has gone on to be the dominant football force in Class 6A-II.

"Eight years ago, I was speaking at the Bixby football banquet," Ostroski said, comparing the experience to his participation in Tuesday's Bruin parents meeting. "It was the same situation."

The question for Bixby's program was what it had to do to be like traditional state powers Jenks and Tulsa Union, he recalled.

The solution turned out to be a greater commitment by the young men and the community -- and the development of trust, Ostroski said.

"Football is not a real complex game," he continued. "You throw the ball to the receiver and the receiver catches the ball. You try to tackle the guy with the ball. You try to score more than the other team. ... For this community (Bartlesville) to have a successful football program, you have to get behind them."

He said players learn trust "at 7:30 a.m. in the morning when they're in the weightroom with their peers."

He also injected the reality of what football is about.

"This game is not fun," he said. "Friday nights are fun, but the rest of it is not fun. ... It's incredibly rewarding. This game is more rewarding than any game you can play. But, it's not fun ... at 7 a.m. in the weightroom or practicing in 100-degree heat.

"These kids sacrifice a lot, the coaches sacrifice a lot, including their time."

A major benefit from participating in football is learning how to handle adversity while others are around you, he continued.

Trust is built in the weightroom when players are spotting for each other and learn they can depend on the other guy on Friday nights, he explained.

He concluded with a question: "Why not Bartlesville?"

Blankenship had opened the 90-minute program by revealing the P.A.C.T. Philosophy -- Parents And Coaches Together.

He later weaved into that another acronym, CLAWS UP, with CLAWS standings for Control what I can control, Love others as much as myself, Always do what is right, Win today, Strive for perfection, settle for excellence.

At the end of the gathering, he asked parents/guardians to sign the Bruin Football PACT, whose stated objective is "to use the game of football as a tool to help our boys become winners for life. ... and we refuse to use our boys to win games. Rather, we will use this game, to win our boys."

Several signed the PACT and dropped it off at the main table.

During a power-point presentation, Blankenship also introduced his family (wife Abigail, young sons Cole and Clay), displayed his career history, revealed his biggest heroes (John Wayne, Jerry Rice and Jesus Christ), listed the resume highlights of his assistant coaches and chronicled the expectations for coaches, players and family.

He asked parents/guardians to please not criticize the coaches in front of the player because it results in bad morale.

"Please speak to us and not about us," he pleased, adding he has an open door policy for parents.

Blankenship also revealed some of his personal adversity, including losing his complete index finger -- in an accident involving a horse trailer -- prior to his final year of college football as a quarterback.

He spoke about the challenges of learning how to throw again with his handicap and of his grueling work ethic -- he daily attended both sessions of workouts when only attendance at one was mandatory -- in order to climb from the No. 6 spot on the depth chart to No. 2.

He also recalled how, when he walked on to the University of Oklahoma team, Adrian Peterson used the locker next door and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White was on the other side.

His lasting friendships with the Oklahoma football community have created a unique opportunity for Bartlesville-area youth.

A free clinic instructed by 17 former pro and college coaches is planned for July 7 in Bartlesville, for grades one through seven.

Blankenship -- who left a class of 24 seniors-to-be at Beggs High School, a favorite to win next year's 3A state title, to take the Bruin head job -- said he and his wife prayed if moving to Bartlesville was the right choice.

He praised the community for having a small town feel mixed with a big school feel.

With nearly 90 players out for this year's spring football session -- which officially begins Thursday -- Blankenship said one of his goals is to attract more than 100 young men to the program next year.

Blankenship inherits a program that has won a total of four games the past two seasons after having made school history with a 10-2 mark -- and trip to the state semifinals -- in 2015.

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