AL HAMNIK: 'Project' player Fred Blue won't give up NFL dream
Al Hamnik | The Times
Merrillville grad and former San Diego Chargers linebacker Fred Blue gets "roughed up" by, from left, Andrew Etter of Dyer, Austin Brundage of Schererville, and Patrick O'Donnell of Hobart at Saturday's Tri-Town Raiders Pop Warner signups.
May 19, 2012
SCHERERVILLE | Fred Blue may be one of pro football's best kept secrets, through no fault of his own.
He played football at Merrillville as a 135-pound junior and I don't remember him.
He had a decent career at Division III North Central College and I still don't remember him.
Then, in 2010, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound free agent linebacker hooked on briefly with the San Diego Chargers' practice squad. Few in the region knew that.
Merrillville in recent years had turned out its share of football heavyweights in Eugene Wilson (Patriots, Texans), Mike Neal (Packers), Jamal Williams (Nebraska) and James Aldridge (Notre Dame) -- but 2005 grad Fred Blue remained an unknown to local media.
Until Saturday, that is.
"I'm fighting, man; clawing, scratching and trying. Whatever it takes," Blue said during a guest appearance at the Tri-Town Raiders Pop Warner signups.
The Arcelor Mittal employee has a Schererville-based team. Managing him is Brian Brundage, who dislikes the word "agent",and skills coach/trainer Art Kimber.
Blue has drawn mild interest from the Colts, Buccaneers, Saints and Patriots with hopes of a possible training camp invite. The words of Chargers' coaches in 2010 continue to drive him on.
"The position coach really gave me a lot of good feedback but it boiled down to being a numbers game and how I'd be a 'project,'" Blue said. "Me coming from North Central, they classified me as a 'raw talent.'
"They said I definitely had what it took, as far as athletic ability, but I needed polishing and some technical work."
Fred Blue says he loves to hit, always has, and hopes his physical nature and impressive foot speed will knock down some doors this summer in the NFL.
A young 25, Blue has been working out, busting it 24-7, since the Chargers released him. That was almost two years ago and even after a long shift at the steel mill, he's back to lifting and conditioning as if a contract were waiting for him on the dinner table.
"Being from North Central, I really didn't expect to get drafted but I expected to be picked up fairly quickly as a free agent," Blue said. "I got overlooked because of the school being D-III, but I wasn't deterred.
"But when I got released by the Chargers, I was a little down. I felt I got the rough end of the stick because I had outperformed some of the competition that stayed. Being a 'project' player ... I didn't get a shot."
There were also brief workouts with the Bengals and the Jets, but no paper offered.
"I haven't stopped training. My love for the game has not changed and will not change," said Blue, whose NFL dream hit a speed bump when he had to find work to help his mother and sister at the time.
"I put on the big-man shoes and took a responsible role. And now they're taken care of."
Saturday, I finally got to know who Fred Blue is.
I like this kid. Here's hoping one of the 32 NFL teams will, too.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org