Rodrigo “Hot Rod” Blankenship Is the Most Lovable Kicker in the NFL

How did the Hot Rod nickname start?

My mom always tried to call me Hot Rod when I was in middle and high school. I was thankful that it never caught on because I was like, “Mom, no, stop.” Like, if I’m going to have a nickname, it’s going to come from somewhere else. But my redshirt sophomore year at Georgia when we made our run in the College Football Playoff, some time during that season I noticed that the nickname had kind of started to catch on. I think it was from fans that started to do it. And then the teammates’ family hears about it in the family section, and then the teammates start calling me that. At that point, I couldn’t resist it any longer.

Was your mom at your games like shouting, “Hot Rod!” in high school?

Yeah, she would be. [laughs] I mean, I wasn’t super tuned into it, but other parents and players would tell me like, “Hey, your mom’s calling you Hot Rod.” 

This year, as a rooke, you turned into an important member of a lot of fantasy teams. Do you hear about that from friends or people on the Internet?

Yeah, a little bit. All my friends and family that do fantasy, they all texted me at the beginning of the season saying, “I can finally draft you.” And I’m like, “I don’t need to know about all that, I’m just trying to do my thing.” [laughs] And I get, whatever, 400 to 500 comments on my Instagram posts every week, and there’s always a few of them in there that are talking about “Way to go, you helped my fantasy team this week.” So I am aware, but I try not to give it too much attention.

You don’t seem to get very flustered. Where does that calm come from?

I’ve tried to make a very serious effort to grow my relationship with God this season. I had a Christian upbringing but had just been kind of distant for most of my time in college, so I just wanted to kind of recommit. There’s a passage in scripture that talks about how God can provide a peace that only he can give, that the world can’t offer to you. 

I didn’t want to get super spiritual, super religious on you! [laughs] But that’s really the only only explanation that I can think of to offer.

I noted in doing some research that you missed your first ever kick at Georgia and missed your first ever kick for the Colts, too, right?

I did miss my first ever attempt at Georgia, so that wasn’t great. And I did have my first miss as a professional in that Jacksonville game but it wasn’t the first attempt. We had a two minute drill at the end of the first half, and we went down and got in range and made it. But they called time out right before the snap. So I had to go back and make it again. So I actually made my first career field goal twice.

I did miss my first one later in the game—and then didn’t really have much time to think about it because we had to kick another field goal pretty shortly after that. That’s the mindset: stuff’s not always going to go your way, but regardless of what happens, you have to have short-term memory. To be able to analyze it, dissect it, and then flush it and move on, regardless of whether it’s a good kick or a not so good kick. The process has to be the same.