Honorary Consul Christopher Smith, left, presented a commendation on behalf of the Danish government to Indianapolis Colts kicker and former University of Georgia football legend Rodrigo Blankenship. Photo: Christopher N. Smith

Rodrigo Blankenship, a former University of Georgia walk-on, won more than a scholarship kicking for the Bulldogs; he captured the hearts of fans with a blend of confidence, humility and of course, his signature Rec Specs athletic eyewear. 

Obviously comfortable in his own skin, Blankenship urged fans (and perhaps warned opponents) to “Respect the Specs,” as if his performance on the field wasn’t enough to earn their adulation (or fear, as the case may be). 

But that’s not his only endearing quirk: Mr. Blankenship is known for his affinity for LEGO, the interlocking, colorful plastic bricks founded and based in Billund, Denmark, and beloved by children (and aficionados of all ages) everywhere. 

He’s a particular fan of large-scale LEGO sets, and he reportedly spent what could have been an anxious Friday night before making the Indianapolis Colts roster completing two of them at home. One was a Ferrari — fitting for the kicker known as “Hot Rod.” 

For place kickers whose careers are made in the big moments late in nail-biter contests, concentration is everything, and Mr. Blankenship has said that beyond awakening his inner child, Legos engage the brain. 

But it’s not just him: local European chambers of commerce have held “Serious Play” workshops at Phipps Plaza’s LEGOLAND, using Legos to focus the mind and stimulate better problem solving and communication among business groups. LEGO itself hopes to “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.” 

Mr. Blankenship’s love for the brand this month inspired a commendation from the Royal Danish Consulate in Macon, Ga., for his contribution to Danish-American relations. 

Local attorney and Danish Honorary Consul Christopher Smith, both a University of Georgia alumnus and the father of a current Georgia student, presented a plaque to Mr. Blankenship during a private family dinner held in Marietta at El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant, his favorite local spot. Mr. Smith said the close-knit event was held in lieu of a larger celebration to adhere to COVID-19 distancing guidelines. 

Mr. Smith told Global Atlanta that the international recognition is fitting for the kicker, whose mother is Brazilian. Young Rodrigo spent many summers in the country visiting relatives and participating in soccer camps as a child. 

Ultimately, though, it was American football that would earn him a spot in the pantheon of UGA legends and a shot at a career in professional sports.

Mr. Blankenship became Georgia’s career scoring leader after the 2019 season, posting 440 points over four years and stopping just a field goal and a point-after from besting Billy Bennett’s single-season record of 131 points. 

In his final season he won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top place kicker and finished his career a perfect 200-for-200 on extra points and 80 of 97 on field goals, an astonishing 82.5 percent accuracy rate. 

Perhaps more impressive, however, was his ability to hit big kicks at tense moments. His 2018 Rose Bowl-record 55-yarder in the first half of UGA’s double-overtime comeback defeat of Oklahoma was followed by a 51-yarder in the first overtime of the College Football Playoff national championship game, where the Dawgs eventually fell to the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Mr. Blankenship continued setting records during his first season in the NFL, when he scored a rookie-record 116 points and helped send the Colts to the playoffs. 

Mr. Smith and the Danish honorary consulate have honored more than one Georgian for their contributions to the state’s ties with Denmark. Previous recipients of commendations include best-selling author Steve Berry and Millennium Gate Museum founder and CEO Rodney Mims Cook Jr. 

More info on Rodrigo Blankenship, a UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication graduate in digital and broadcast journalism, can be found at www.rodrigoblankenship.com; follow him on Twitter at @RodTheKicker3. 

A private company based in Billund, Denmark, the Lego Group has more than 18,000 employees in 15 countries.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...