Concordia junior cornerback and return man Derek Blessing has collected GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Special Teams Player of the Week honors, the league announced on Monday. Blessing put together another electrifying performance on Sept. 22, returning a punt 71 yards for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 52-12 win over Dordt.
“Derek’s got great vision. That’s the biggest thing,” special teams coordinator Corby Osten said. “We try to set up each punt return knowing that if he gets a head of steam, he’s going to be tough to stop. He’s usually going to make the first guy miss. If we just get him that seam, he’s gone.”
Terrific blocking allowed Blessing to race straight up the middle practically untouched until he got to the Dordt 40-yard line, bowled over a would-be tackler and dashed into the end zone for his second punt return touchdown of the season. He also added a 40-yard kickoff return for a total of 111 return yards in the blowout victory.
“Every time I get the ball I just see what my other guys are doing,” Blessing said following the game. “Without the other 10 guys on the team I wouldn’t be able to do that. They’re getting blocks for me. They’re making plays and it makes me look good. I just want to give a shout out to those guys.”
In addition, the converted running back had a big day at corner with a pair of interceptions, one of which he returned 52 yards to set up a Concordia touchdown on the next play, and three total tackles.
The Ogallala, Neb., native, leads the nation with an average of 28.0 yards per punt return and is second in the NAIA with 224 total punt return yards. He is also third nationally with an average of 35.2 yards per kick return. Despite being a defensive player, Blessing is 18th in the NAIA in all purpose yards with 487.