Holy Trinity’s BlackStrain ready to show he’s ‘a whole different player’


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After missing his junior year with an injury, Holy Trinity wide receiver James BlackStrain is ready to show he's not only 100 percent, but a completely different player this season.

Carl Kotala

It’s been a little while since we’ve seen Holy Trinity wide receiver James BlackStrain on a football field.

Well, get ready, because the Georgia Tech commit is ready to show he’s 100 percent healthy, and a much tougher matchup than ever before.

“I feel like I’m a whole different player,” BlackStrain said. “I got mentally and physically bigger and stronger. I have a lot of new ways I play the game.

“I move around about the same, but I’m smarter. I know how to find my ways in the soft spots (of defenses). I’m going to be on a whole new level this season. I really want to see how things turn out.”

BlackStrain, who had offers from Tennessee, Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State after his freshman season at Holy Trinity, missed his junior season after injuring his knee during basketball practice.

That didn’t stop the 6-foot-2, 180-pound receiver from getting more than 40 scholarship offers from some of the biggest names in the country. He ultimately decided on Georgia Tech because he said it was the “best fit for me and my family.”

Now that he’s back, BlackStrain is focused on working hard and improving “one percent” every day to get better at his craft.

That was the same attitude he took while rehabbing from his injury. While he worked to strengthen his knee, BlackStrain also watched tape of wide receivers such as Jerry Jeudy, Justin Jefferson, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Thomas. He studied how they got off the ball and how they came out of their breaks.

He also spent time trying to learn defenses, the way an opponent might try to disguise its coverage and, of course, how to beat it.

After catching 27 passes for 555 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman, BlackStrain had 39 receptions for 715 yards and six TDs as a sophomore.

Holy Trinity coach Nate Hooks Jr. believes BlackStrain will be a matchup nightmare for any defense.

“What BlackStrain brings to the table is he’s a big body,” Hooks said. “He’s 6-2 and change with extra-long arms, so he’s always open, even when he’s covered.

“You have a 5-10 to 6-2 DB … he’s not as long as BlackStrain. He can still go up and catch the ball. That’s an unbelievable asset.”

Going up against a defender for a jump ball is actually one of BlackStrain’s favorite plays.

“I like going up and getting balls,” he said. ‘I love jump balls. I love running routes. I love being a technician coming out of my routes and getting open and just making DBs look silly.

“I just want to be the best. I want to run the route the best way coach sets it up.”

With a number of new faces on the roster, including quarterbacks Davin Wydner and Jonathan Bowden, the Tigers aren’t being shy about how good they think they will be this season.

“We’re capable of many things people think we’re not,” BlackStrain said.

After reaching the second round of the playoffs the past two years — and winning the first playoff game in program history — the Tigers are aiming to go even further in 2020.

“We’re going to be pretty good,” Hooks said. “There’s no hiding it or being cliché like coaches say and not talking about it.

“I’m talking about it. We’re going to be good. But like I told them today, if you don’t expect it, it’s not happening.”

After missing so much time, and receiving so many offers, it would be easy to expect BlackStrain will come into this season feeling he has  something to prove about just how good he is.

But to say that would also be missing an important point about the Holy Trinity senior — it’s not just about him.

“This year is something to prove, but it’s more than that,” he said. “I’m just trying to be the best team player and the best team athlete I can be. I’m trying to help everybody so we all can make it to the next level and be successful in life.

“I just want to help everybody the best I can. This team is built for that. It’s like a brotherhood.”