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McDuffie County's Ed Blanko inducted into Hall of Fame at Newberry College

It's been almost 50 years since Thomson resident Ed Blanko played football, basketball and baseball at Newberry College in Newberry, S.C.

And though Mr. Blanko excelled in all three sports, he never received the votes necessary to place him into the coveted school's hall of fame until last month. Normally, such is done within a span of four to five years after star athletes graduate from college.

Mr. Blanko, who once oversaw 1,500 employees at the Uniroyal, Inc., shoe plant in Thomson, never complained about not being in the school's hall of fame, saying he never really thought about it.

He did happen to notice about four years ago when he visited his college alma mater that the names of several men he once played with had been inducted into the hall of fame.

Still, he returned home thinking nothing about it.

"At the time, it really wasn't a big deal to me," said Mr. Blanko, who attended Newberry College from 1952 until he graduated in 1956 on a full athletic scholarship.

His wait to finally get into the Newberry Sports Hall of Fame ended this year, as he was enshrined on Sept. 1 during special ceremonies that lasted two days. On the first night, Mr. Blanko, along with his wife, Dorothy, and three children, Karen, Ellen and Eddie and other members of his family, attended a formal dinner in his honor. A ceremony involving his being inducted formally into the school's hall of fame was held the next day.

"It was wonderful to be inducted into the Newberry Sports Hall of Fame," said Mr. Blanko. "It was a real big surprise to me. I'll never forget it."

Before leaving Newberry after being the latest hall of famer there, he said he went on the hardwood and shot a few hook shots.

"It felt real good just to step back onto the court and shoot a few baskets," said Mr. Blanko.

He explained that he attended Newberry for two purposes: the first to get an education and the other to play sports for the school.

For four years, he played both football and basketball. In football, Mr. Blanko played defensive end, averaging seven tackles a game. He played in two big bowl games and was named an All-State football player for his outstanding defensive and offensive performances.

On the offensive side of the football, Mr. Blanko once scored a touchdown in what was one of Newberry's most historic football games ever. It came in a game against the Furman Paladins on Sept. 16, 1955. Mr. Blanko scored what proved to be the only touchdown needed in the game on a 6-yard pass from his team's quarterback. The Indians went on to score another touchdown in their 14-0 victory - Newberry's first over Furman in 41 years.

"That was a great game and a great win for Newberry," recalled Mr. Blanko. "I'll never forget that game and how excited we all were in having beaten Furman."

In basketball, Mr. Blanko, a native of Connecticut, who stood 6-3 and weighed 215 lbs., played center. His statue resembles that same man today with the exception that he's aged and has acquired some health problems that require a doctor's care and medication.

"I still feel really good for the most part," said Mr. Blanko, who grew up in what was known as The Valley in Connecticut and attended Seymour High School.

He said times were difficult for him and his family back in 1949.

"We were poor to put it quite bluntly," said Mr. Blanko. "My Dad was accidentally shot during a hunting trip when I was very young - 11 or 12. He couldn't work. And we had no insurance. My Mom did the best she could, but basically we lived off the town. Those people in that town were mighty good to me and my family."

Mr. Blanko started playing basketball and football at an early age. The more he played, the better he got. By the time he made the high school basketball and football teams, he was really good. And everybody knew it.

His basketball talent drew the attention of others, including college scouts. And before long, he was offered a full athletic football scholarship to Newberry College.

"That was a huge break for me and my life," said Mr. Blanko.

As a team captain of the Indians' basketball team during his senior season of 1955-56, he dominated the paint, averaging 19.1 points per game and yanking down an average of 22.3 rebounds per game. Because of his outstanding play on the hardwood, Mr. Blanko was named to the Little Four Tournament All-Star Team three different times.

"I remember the 1955 basketball game against Furman for several reasons," said Mr. Blanko. "The game was the first one to ever be televised at Furman, South Carolina. It was also a game that saw Furman's Frank Selvey score 100 points. What a show Frank put on in that game."

Mr. Blanko, meanwhile, scored 35 points in that game.

In the off-season of basketball, Mr. Blanko continued to play roundball. He participated in a summer league, playing side-by-side with Wilt Chamberlain, who later became one of the all-time great NBA legends. The summer team was coached by a man named Red Auerbach, who later went on to become a famous basketball coach with the Boston Celtics.

"I've always loved sports," said Mr. Blanko, while sitting in a chair in the den of his home. "I always wanted to give whatever sport I was playing at the time my best."

He also played college baseball with a career batting average of .343. He played center field when he wasn't pitching for the Indians.

On two different occasions, Mr. Blanko tried out with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I guess I didn't have what they were looking for," he lamented.

Now retired from the shoe industry, which included him having worked abroad, too, Mr. Blanko now enjoys spending time with his wife of 52 years - having met her when they attended high school together. He also enjoys spending time with his grown children and grandchildren: Tammy, Ryan, Lauren and Leah.

Mr. Blanko credits his success in life to having treating everyone fairly and equally.

"I've always tried to do that with my family and other people," said Mr. Blanko. "Respect for others has always been a big push in my life."

Web posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007

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