SARASOTA — With only minutes left in the third quarter of Bradenton Manatee’s game with Sarasota Riverview, a familiar moment transpired for Mike Blakely.
As Manatee’s senior running back got up from his final carry Friday night, he was greeted with a roar of cheers and a standing ovation while he made his way toward the sideline.
“The crowd tends to do that,” Blakely said while smiling.
Of course it does when you’re not only the star of your high school team but one of the state’s top football prospects. Home fans adore you. Visiting fans respect you. And college coaches covet you. That’s exactly what Blakely goes through when he’s under those Friday night lights.
He also goes through the rigors of recruiting. Rated as a four-star running back and Rivals.com’s seventh-best running back, Blakely has gotten offers from around 20 major programs. His popularity winds through the state of Florida all the way out to California.
With all the attention and lobbying by schools, Blakely is down to two — Florida and Auburn — and will make his college decision Tuesday at 9 a.m. at Manatee High.
While there was talk Sunday that Blakely might push his announcement back until next week, The Gainesville Sun confirmed Monday that Blakely’s announcement will go as planned Tuesday.
Now, the question is where he’ll end up.
On Oct. 21, his Facebook status stated “feels so (expletive) good to be a *****!” For those playing at home, he either meant “Gator” or “Tiger.”
When asked about his Facebook tease, Blakely laughed more than he explained.
“I’m a playful person,” he said. “I like putting stuff on Facebook like that, making people guess and see what they say.”
Blakely caused even more of a stir during Friday’s game when he delivered a handful of Gator chomps directed toward Florida coach Urban Meyer, who attended Blakely’s game along with offensive coordinator Steve Addazio.
Blakely said he saw Meyer there during warmups and that Addazio was at his school earlier. Seeing Meyer motivated him a little more Friday.
“It means a lot to have a head coach at a program like Florida to be at your game,” Blakely said. “I kind of showed out for him a little bit, but I had to do it for the team, too.”
Blakely, though hobbled, tried his best to impress during Manatee’s 35-6 win.
Playing on an ankle that he said was about 75-percent healthy, Blakely carried the ball 14 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a 32-yard touchdown pass, the second of his season.
Sixty-seven yards might not sound like the stuff studs are made of, but considering his health, that’s not bad. Coming into Friday night’s game, Blakely was nursing a sore right ankle. After a punt return in first quarter, he went down awkwardly on his left ankle that caused him to leave the game for a series and required a major tape job.
He played more as a decoy at times after his injury, but still took hand-offs and direct snaps.
“I knew my team needed me and I knew they’d give anything for me,” Blakely said. “They’d break their necks and backs for me, so a little ankle ain’t nothing.”
But after his gritty performance most of the buzz still revolved around his numerous chomps. Blakely said it was a part of an inside joke between him and Meyer.
Whatever it meant, Blakely wouldn’t give up too much about Tuesday’s festivities. He hasn’t laid out much of a plan, but his decision is made and the coaches at the school he’ll pick are aware.
The next step is just delivering the news to the public in some sort of creative way.
“I’m just going to get up and make a fool of myself — freestyle,” he said.
As always, let me know what you think in the comments below and on Twitter.com/EdAschoffGSun