University of Maine wide receiver Jaquan Blair has a unique distinction.
Despite playing a physical sport that leaves players battered, bruised and injured, he has never missed a day of practice in his four seasons.
“Even if I don’t want to practice, I know there’s someone who wants my spot and I could lose it in one day. So I want to make sure I don’t give someone an opportunity to take something from me that I’ve earned,” Blair explained.
The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native is also ensuring his playing time with his performances on game day.
Blair is tied for second on the team with 11 receptions through four games, one behind senior Micah Wright. He leads the team with 18 yards per catch, which ranks fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association among players who have caught at least 10 passes.
He has caught two touchdown passes including a one-handed, 63-yard gem in last Saturday’s 35-14 loss at Yale.
“He has some of the best ball skills of any wideout I’ve been around,” UMaine offensive coordinator Nick Charlton said. “If you throw the ball up, he’ll make the play.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Blair said he helped make up for any deficiency in speed by making sure he learned to secure the ball.
“It’s second nature. If the ball is in the air, it’s mine,” Blair said.
Head coach Joe Harasymiak said Blair exemplifies a UMaine football player.
“He’s a tough kid. He has a chip on his shoulder, and he works really hard,” Harasymiak said. “He plays pretty much every rep (on offense).”
Charlton said Blair is the Black Bear’s best blocking wide receiver. It’s a skill in which he takes pride.
“You’ve got to be able to go into the trenches and do the dirty work sometimes. It adds another element to a receiver’s game,” Blair said.
Blair redshirted his first season at UMaine, then caught three passes in 2016. Last fall, he made 23 receptions for 242 yards and played in all 10 games.
“He’s very reliable. He just needs to be more consistent with everything,” Charlton said. “If you want to be an elite receiver in this league, you have to do it every play.”
Blair feels he has improved his routes and has developed a better understanding of the game.
“I try to perfect my craft everyday,” Blair said.
At Susquehanna Township High School, Blair set a school record with 55 receptions for 869 yards and 15 TDs during his senior year.
He was going to attend St. Francis University (Pennsylvania) but he visited UMaine and was sold on the family atmosphere and being around like-minded players.
“(Orono) is a great college town, and there aren’t too many distractions. It’s a place where I can keep my nose down and get my work done every day,” Blair said.
He was ready to give up football after his sixth-grade year, but his father and mother, Kevin and Vernell Blair, told him the importance of not quitting anything.
Blair started out as a fullback, but was switched to wide receiver, a position he loves.
“I like making plays not a lot of other people can make and being relied upon in pressure situations,” Blair said.
With former All-CAA selection Wright and explosive Earnest Edwards among the wideouts at UMaine, Blair is often overshadowed.
But he doesn’t mind.
“We’re brothers. We’re close. We help each other out,” Blair said.
He wants to continue to improve, become a better leader and help the team earn a Football Championship Subdivision playoff slot.
In Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game against Villanova in Orono, Blair will encounter former high school teammate Aaron Seigle, who is a defensive end.
“We have a friendly rivalry. We try to keep in touch,” Blair said.
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