Exclusive Interview with Horatio Benedict “H.B.” Blades

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We caught up with Horatio Benedict “H.B.” Blades at Indian Land’s CrossRidge Cafe. As the scent of coffee wafted through the air, we sat back and probed him with endless questions about football and life. We were taken by surprise by his answers. Get a quick glimpse into his life in this fascinating Q&A, brought to you by Discover Indian Land.

Discover Indian Land: A successful coach is a good motivator. How do you motivate your players?

First, you have to understand that all players are different. They learn in different ways.Some kids are motivated by material things, others by sentimental things. Individual meetings along with one-on-one meetings are key. For me, when I was a kid, my motivation was my family, so it’s important to know what works for each player.My job is to get players here that want to invest the time like I do. I get here at 6:45 a.m., and sometimes I have parent meetings at 7:00 a.m. If I need to stay until 7 or 8 o’clock at night, I do it.I really want this community to come together. I want to see a fluid system. We want to see every kid qualify for college. You have to push the kids to want more for themselves. I tell them, “Put your best foot forward.”

Discover Indian Land: Can you share some of your new ideas and projects with us?
We have a brand-new logo and new helmets. The helmet is gold. We are helping players develop talent. I want to have cheers. I want to have chants. This is not my football program: This is Indian Land’s football program, which involves everybody, not just one person.
We are launching a new web page called “Ma’am Warriors” for the football moms. You have to work long hours to get certain things done, and I want to make sure the players get the best stuff possible. We have a lot of projects in the works. I have been reaching out to the local community to see what things people want to see. I am not from here, so I cannot say what Indian Land entails as far as tradition, so this is where the community outreach comes into play. I want to make it bigger, but it’s not my program.
My job is to help grow the team and turn ILHS into a brand, which will help our recognition when we travel. People want to be part of a successful football program. I’m a firm believer that football teaches important lessons. These kids want to compete at a high level.
We are going to have a community movie night with food trucks. We want the players to work with the community, like Transformation and Sun City. We’d love to participate in the Indian Land Community Cleanup Day as well. We’ve added some roles for our special ed students, so they also can be involved in the game. I believe you have to serve a purpose that is bigger than yourself.
Discover Indian Land: Give us one word that the current team would say about you.
Passion.
Discover Indian Land: What does your football summer program look like?
Weightlifting, 7-on-7’s, and guidance on nutrition. Also, I’m encouraging kids to attend camps on campus. A lot of these players want to get recruited, so I encourage them to get on campus, check out the universities, and impress. That’s important because a lot of these schools can pay for college.
Discover Indian Land: Would you consider nominating any of our seniors for the Annual Shrine Bowl? And if so, what would qualify them?
Yes, but we definitely have a young team. I’m all about kids getting recognition, and I will do whatever I can do to promote them. At the end of the day, I cannot ask a kid to give me everything he has unless I can do the same in return. I would consider nominating the best players that Indian Land has to offer. To qualify them, I would be looking at their film, which speaks for itself; the performance on the football field; their academics; and, of course, how they carry themselves as young men. We have a group of great kids. I’m really excited because they are anxious to learn. They want to learn.
Discover Indian Land: The $199 million school district bond passed. Do you think the new Indian Land school, stadium, and football field will have any impact on the community spirit?
In a positive way, yes, but that should never affect your spirit. People, pride, family, and community affect your spirit. I would like to focus on bringing more spirit with a welcoming environment to Indian Land. I’ve been laying the groundwork for this, things like tailgating, a live pre-game DJ, and blackout games. Whatever the kids are into. It’s their decision. I tell the kids all the time: “I’ve had my high school time. I’m done playing football. This is your time, so I want this to be your decision.” I remember my high school days and had a great time. I would like for them to feel the same. Part of it is to develop young men into men. They have to start making their own decisions at some point.
Discover Indian Land: A few questions trickled in from the local community. One of the questions was if you planned to have a student section at games.
Yes, I’d actually like to have something in the field, close to the end zone. If we cannot get portable bleachers, I’d like to section off a space for the students.
Discover Indian Land: What was the feeling like when you walked onto the field at your first NFL game?
It’s a unique experience. It’s straight adrenaline. I’ve broken bones and torn cartilage and didn’t even know until the next day. The power of passion and love is very underrated.
Discover Indian Land: You’re originally from Plantation, Florida. What is your most memorable childhood memory from Florida?
Football and the competition that comes with it. I came from a place where football is one of the biggest recruiting hotbeds in the country. Florida produces a lot of NFL talent. You see guys like Antonio Brown and Ryan Shazier. We are all from the same area. It’s a different culture down there. Football is it. Most guys start when they are 6 or 7. The true passion for football starts young. It was always football for me.
Discover Indian Land: Is ILHS anything like the school you graduated from?
This is a change of pace. The difference is based on the size as well as the magnitude of everything. Plantation houses over 2,000 students, and Indian Land High currently has about 975. The completion level down there, in Florida, is so big. Plantation was a 6A school. Now, it’s an 8A. At Plantation High, it was a competition to even get on the field. Indian Land is smaller, so I want the kids to start thinking bigger. I want to make Indian Land High School a brand.
Discover Indian Land: Did you have a role model growing up? Who inspired you? What is it like having a family of professional football players?
My uncle, Al Blades, was my role model. That was my dad’s younger brother. He passed away in a car accident at the age of 26. He was playing for the 49ers at the time. During the off season, we used to work out and train together. My family is big into attention to detail, so if you want to do something, you have focus to accomplish it. Al’s dream was always to play in the NFL. He didn’t get to finish his dreams, so I wanted to accomplish this for him. My dad never wanted me to play football. He always tried to push me away from playing football, most likely due to all his injuries and concussions—he has five herniated disks in his back. But I love it. I have a passion for it. To see my family and how passionate they were about football and how much they sacrificed, inspired me.
Discover Indian Land: Did you think growing up you would also go to Miami University?
Everybody in my family went to Miami. I’m the only one that broke tradition. I’ve always wanted to make a name for myself. I’ve never wanted to live off of someone else’s name. That was my dad. That was my uncle. That is what they achieved. I wanted to start my own tradition. When my name was mentioned as one of the “Pitt Greats,” it meant a lot to me. I was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh and played football there. I was All-American Division 1 as a linebacker. It was a great experience. School was paid for. I received a full scholarship. It was a great experience. You get to do what you love and get a free education out of it.
Football gives you the avenue to get your education paid for.
Discover Indian Land: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a linebacker?
I was 16. I knew. I love the process. Going to work every day is fun for me because I love what I do. The reason why I’m able to do what I love is that I was able to go to college for free, play in the NFL, and make my dreams come true. Financially, that gives you a head start.
Discover Indian Land: Do you work locally? 
I teach at Indian Land High School. I get to work with the Special Ed Self-Contained students [Exceptional Education Department]. I like what I do, and I invest my time into the local community. I could get a job in the corporate world with my resume, but that’s not the point. People are always asking, “How much money do you have?” or, “How much money do you want to make?” Sometimes even to the point that you feel like a sellout if you don’t really do what you love. I love what I do. The students know that. The students want me around because they know I want to be there. I’m happy. I joke around with them all the time. I make it fun, and I love my job!
Discover Indian Land: Is that position challenging?
No, I don’t find it always challenging because when you truly love something—and I am a true believer in unconditional love—that’s it for me. Once you fulfill your dreams, then what? What are you going to do for humanity? Are you going to pass those lessons on to the next generation or just worry about yourself?
Discover Indian Land: How long have you worked at ILHS?
This is my second year.
Discover Indian Land: Do you have a favorite football team?
Growing up, I rooted for whoever my family played for. Right now, I’m a fan of all football. That is my art. I like watching football and cheering on the guys I played with.
Discover Indian Land: You probably have a million jerseys. Do you have a favorite one?
Yes, Warren Moon. He played with both my uncle and my dad. I really admire him.
Discover Indian Land: Favorite pastime?
Last year, I traveled to 19 different states. I travel quite a bit. I’m pretty spontaneous. I’m random like that. I have lived in Seattle; Los Angeles; Detroit; Plantation; Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; and Charlotte, so weekend getaways are the norm for me. My favorite place to visit is New Orleans—Southern cooking and jazz music!
Discover Indian Land: Do you think you will retire from ILHS?
It’s hard to say. I have a vision planned out for my retirement. I would like to open a little restaurant, or dive bar, in the south of France. So, that’s my retirement plan!
Discover Indian Land: It’s Friday night at 8 p.m. Where would we find you?
At home watching a movie. I’m a huge movie guy. I get out a little bit, but when I get out, I get out. I love doing random things. That is how you become cultured. But most nights here, I’d be at home watching a movie.
Discover Indian Land: Got a favorite drink?
I’m more of a microbrew type of guy. I like Noda and Asheville because it reminds of Seattle. That’s where the microbreweries are.
Discover Indian Land: Where’s the strangest place you have been?
Wilmington, Delaware. It was very quiet, and I stayed downtown.
Discover Indian Land: What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
Well, I think I’ll still be traveling. It’s hard to say because you never know what the future will hold. I’ll always follow my heart.
Discover Indian Land: If you had the option of the following 3 careers, which would you pick: a Charlotte meteorologist, a deep-sea fisherman, or an airplane pilot?
Airplane pilot because I love to travel. I’m in one city for a little bit, then I will go on to the next and to the next.
Discover Indian Land: What’s your biggest fear?
Being misunderstood. By nature, I am quiet at times. I call it “time and place.”
Discover Indian Land: What’s on your bucket list?
Build and have my own dive bar/restaurant in the south of France. I love that movie Madagascar where he says, “I say let it ride!” I would also like to visit Ireland one day.
Discover Indian Land: Tell us a fun fact that would surprise us!
I played hockey before football. That’s how I got my front tooth knocked out. This is when I lived in Detroit, Michigan. It’s good to play other sports to see what you like, but once you know you are good at something, you should put all your chips in that bag!
It’s possible that his optimistic mindset or perhaps his old-school wisdom made it a slam dunk decision for the job. Coach Blades might be one of the most positive, upbeat, and hopeful individuals we’ve met in a long time. We are extremely excited to see what this former NFL player will bring to Indian Land.

Photo Credit: JC Photography

 

 

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