Rodrigo Blankenship, like many second-generation Star Wars fans, has seen every new movie since 1999’s The Phantom Menace, as part of a large crowd on the opening weekend of its release. Most members of those audiences, however, don’t turn to Star Wars LEGO sets to help their focus, or as a reward, for their high-pressure job in front of 60,000+ screaming fans.
Blankenship, known as “Hot Rod” since his college football days at the University of Georgia, finished a successful rookie season as an NFL kicker with the Indianapolis Colts earning an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. He is spending this offseason by not just building LEGO, but also strength and power to improve his kicking range and accuracy. He’s also enjoying shows like The Bad Batch and other Star Wars favorites on Disney Plus, when not in the gym or on the practice field.
“I am enjoying The Bad Batch, I very much enjoyed The Mandalorian, and Season 7 of The Clone Wars last year,” the 24-year old Blankenship said, while also expressing his Marvel fandom and shows like “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” which he watches with his girlfriend, Logan.
When it comes to The Bad Batch he watches it alone, but that doesn’t stop him from comparing the characters to his teammates, especially the core group of specialists he works with directly. It only makes sense when watching a show about a special forces squad, right?
“I guess I would probably be Tech,” the bespectacled Blankenship said. “We have the glasses in common. I feel like I’m a little bit more of a cerebral, nerdy, techie, geeky kind of guy.”
The rest of what I’ll refer to as “Colts Force 99,” according to the kicker:
Luke Rhodes (Long Snapper, #46): “Luke is probably Wrecker. He’s a cross-fitter with a crazy physique—super-fit, super-strong, super-fast, and probably the most athletic long snapper in the NFL.”
Rigoberto Sanchez (Punter, #8): “I would say Rigo would be Echo. I’d almost say Crosshair, but Crosshair really isn’t on my nice list right now. He is the glue of our group and holds us all together. He’s always there to provide exactly what we need whether that’s emotional support, encouragement, or a ‘giddy-up,’ he’s always got exactly what we need. I feel like Echo in The Bad Batch has been an incredible addition to their team and definitely provides a unique skill set that’s been very helpful for them.”
Bubba Ventrone (Coach/Special Teams Coordinator): “Our special teams coordinator, Coach Bubba, would be Hunter. He’s the leader of our group.”
Blankenship’s love of Star Wars and LEGO was initially reported prior to earning his spot on the club last year. As an undrafted rookie he battled incumbent kicker Chase McLaughlin during the 2020-2021 training camp. How he spent the evening before finding out he had won the job became a fun story, mentioning the Star Wars fan building LEGO sets to keep himself occupied while waiting to learn his professional sports fate.
Though he didn’t get to a film in the theater until the Prequel Trilogy launched, Blankenship was introduced to the Original Trilogy by watching movies at home with his dad. The kicker is still torn between which film is his favorite, with Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope battling for the top spot. This love of that time period in Star Wars canon—stretching from the Sequel Trilogy through the Original Trilogy—also impacts his favorite LEGO sets.
“One of my favorites is the 2020 AT-AT, [which] I believe came out with last year’s summer wave,” Blankenship explained. “It has a really great mini-figure selection, including General Veers and two drivers.”
He enjoyed being able to team the trio in the cockpit, even if “it’s a little bit of a snug fit.”
His other favorite is the 2008 gunship from Attack of the Clones. He shared his excitement that LEGO is making an ultimate collector’s series version of that set, expected to be released in late 2021.
“Maybe that will be my new favorite, later this year when it comes out,” Blankenship said with a laugh.
The second-year pro has just wrapped up week two of the Colts’ offseason Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in preparation for the rigors of summer’s full-scale training camp, and Blankenship also has a recently announced LEGO set to look forward to.
“I wanted the Bad Batch shuttle when Season 7 [of “The Clone Wars”] came out last year. They just announced the pre-order for that on May the Fourth, so that one has been checked off.”
As he waits for the set of five new minifigures (Tech, Echo, Hunter, Wrecker, and Crosshair) to arrive with their Havoc Marauder ship he will continue to grow his collection. Blankenship has even created an Instagram account, @rodthecollector3, where he highlights his favorite custom minifigures, currently all clones, and provides a detailed description of each. Though he only started the account in late April he already has more than 36.5 thousand followers and active engagement on each post by fellow fans.
- Fry, Jason (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 176 Pages - 04/27/2021 (Publication Date) - DK Children (Publisher)