Kicking Coach Doug Blevins Creates Champions from his Chair
By Mike Ervin, Chicago Abilities Expo Ambassador
Doug Blevins was only four years old on New Year’s Eve, 1967, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the final seconds of the National Football League championship game. That legendary game has come to be known as the Ice Bowl because it was played in a temperature of 17 degrees below zero.
Watching that game from his warm home in Abingdon, Virginia, changed Blevins life. “From that moment forward, I knew that I wanted to make my living working in professional football in some capacity,” he says. But he couldn’t play football and he never would because he was born with cerebral palsy. He never walked in his young life.
“So, when it came time for me to participate in Pop Warner football here in Abingdon,” Blevins says, “they made me the Junior Commissioner of the league. This position was nothing more than a vehicle for me to participate in football. I started learning the game from the coaching perspective and it turned into a passion that ultimately led to a career.”
Blevins developed a specialty coaching kickers. He became a kicking guru with a reputation so stellar that aspiring kickers have sought his tutelage for over a decade.
Last fall Blevins was nominated for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. He was delightfully shocked to receive the news from a journalist who contacted him seeking his reaction. Blevins says he has no idea who nominated him. He was not chosen for induction, but, he says, “Just to be nominated is an honor I can’t put into words.”
Blevins experienced his most satisfying moment as a coach when he watched one of his prize students, Adam Vinatieri, win Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 for the New England Patriots when he kicked a 48-yard field goal as time expired.
The kickers competing in this year’s Super Bowl, David Akers of the San Francisco 49ers and Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens, were both coached by Blevins. Kickers and punters flock to Abingdon from far and wide to learn from him.
Blevins says, “I first started experimenting with my cousin and other young high school kickers and I quickly determined that I was able to very easily discern what they were doing and always make the appropriate corrections. In order to be successful in coaching, you have to have a natural eye for what you are looking for. It also required a lot of studying and learning. You have to develop very good communication skills to be able to communicate to an athlete what you are wanting them to do without being able to actually physically demonstrate everything.”
After graduating from Abingdon High School, Blevins received a football scholarship and attended the University of Tennessee, where he worked as a student assistant under legendary football coach Johnny Majors. “This was pretty much my first real football coaching job. Most people automatically assumed that because I had cerebral palsy, I could not or should not have pursued a coaching career. I was successful because I never listened to those people! The world is full of losers and people who wish they had accomplished certain things. I never did run into any blatant job discrimination. Professional football is a results-oriented business. As soon as people saw that I could create the desired results and achieve the appropriate level of success, I was welcomed into the arena.”
Blevins went on to be a kicking coach with the Miami Dolphins for seven seasons and the Minnesota Vikings for one season. But an assistant coach’s job security is tied to that of the head coach and in both cases a change at the top cost him his job, too. Blevins has also had two marriages end in divorce, which is another down side of a coach’s life. It’s rough on marriages. “Football becomes your mistress.”
These days he lives with his 14-year-old son and coaches kickers at Emory & Henry College in Abingdon. Blevins intends to heavily pursue a coaching position as soon as his son graduates from high school. His ultimate goal is to be a college or professional head coach.
Part of Blevins’ intense determination comes from growing up a diehard Cowboys fan. “I truly loved and admired such people as Roger Staubach and Tom Landry. I believe that the Dallas Cowboys teams of that era and those people truly embodied the true meaning of the American spirit of not giving up. The Dallas Cowboys were never out of any game they played! I witnessed them orchestrate many incredible comeback wins!”