Nov. 24, 2017

by Vincent Briedis

As most of the sleepy college town of Charlottesville awakens to frost on a cool and crisp November morning, Virginia senior free safety Quin Blanding has already been awake for over two hours. Along with his teammates, he has been preparing for Friday’s regular season finale against Virginia Tech, his last game to be played at Scott Stadium.

Nearly three hours away in Virginia Beach, Quin’s mother, Cory Lee, is waking up. Like every morning, she has Quin on her mind.

“Since the first day Quin has stepped foot on Grounds in 2014 there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t texted him a motivational or inspirational quote,” Lee said. “From Will Smith, Ali, Martin Luther King, Dwayne Johnson, Tupac and so many others. It is the first thing I do in the day.”

Blanding returns to his locker each morning after practice to awaiting texts from Lee. He finds strength and motivation in each those messages.

“My mom knows the struggle I go through every day having to juggle class and practice,” Blanding said. “She is my biggest fan and my biggest motivator.”

When looking over the fabric woven into the tapestry of Blanding’s young life, you can see a common theme and example set by Lee.

Blanding is the youngest of Lee’s three children and the only boy. While his father is in his life now, in the beginning Lee raised Blanding as a single mother and at times was working two jobs and building a foundation of hard work and discipline in her son.

“My mom is a very dedicated, hard-working person and I’ve always admired her for that,” Blanding said. “I’ve always looked up to her because of that standard. She has never once complained about a struggle she had. She always overcame the struggle. She always showed me that yes, we are struggling but we are going to overcome this and we are going to work hard. We have to be dedicated to fix things.”

Paying witness to her mom’s struggles as a single mom and later seeing his older sister endure the same fight, Blanding developed a passion for social work and believes he has found his calling and he will use his influence through football to make it happen.

“I want to open my own family-run office one day,” Blanding said. “I want to return to Virginia Beach and help people back home. I am very big on loyalty. Virginia Beach is my home. I know a lot people in Virginia Beach would trust me and believe in me and know I am there to help any way I can. But I would love to expand to other places. There is always someone in need of help.”

It is not surprising Blanding would want to venture into helping people with his family. They have been everything to him. “Quin was always super protective of his sisters and me,” said Lee. “He took to heart to take care of us. He was the peacemaker, the mediator of the family, always very calm and mature for his age.”

“My family is very wonderful, they’ve always supported me,” Blanding said. “It’s something that I feel like as a family we would thrive in, helping others. We are just very helpful and passionate people in regards to what we are doing and how we are doing it. I believe our story will encourage.”

Blanding’s family story is one that is prime to inspire the many lives they touch daily and moving forward toward his social work goals.

Every small child emulates the grownups around him and you can see the hard work and motivation from Lee in how Blanding leads the Cavaliers. You can see it when he is working out in the ice and snow in January, when he pushes the defensive sleds in the heat of the August sun and how he motivates and lifts up his teammates, no matter how young or old.

His mold was cast watching Lee. He would watch Lee work as a paralegal by day, while she was a waitress and janitor at night to support her family. When he needed something for sports growing up, he learned there was a price.

“When Quin wanted new shoes or new cleats that were very expensive I would make him come to work with me at my part-time job (janitorial work),” Lee said. “I wanted to show him that nothing in life is free and that nothing would just be handed to him. He quickly learned the value of a dollar.”

Flash forward to 2017 and you can see that hard work and determination pay off as Blanding has helped lead a Cavalier football team to bowl-eligibility for the first time since 2011. He will leave Virginia as a graduate in three and a half years, as an All-American and the career record holder in tackles.

Loyalty was embedded into the bedrock of Blanding’s development as a child. No matter where he lays his head, he will impact that community and those around him.

After UVA’s bowl game Blanding will prepare for the NFL Draft, but he leaves Charlottesville with a degree in hand in sociology and lasting impression on the University community besides what he did on the football field. That desire to get into social work and helping people started well before he reached UVA’s hallowed Grounds, but while he was here he made the impact he could.

Blanding has been part of Green Dot at the University of Virginia, an organization that is bringing comprehensive violence prevention strategy to UVA. Blanding is a part of the UVA student body that is bringing a cultural shift to the University community. Blanding’s involvement in the Charlottesville community is extensive, spending much of his free time visiting retirement communities, hospitals and schools. Each and every encounter bringing a smile, encouragement and a story to complete strangers.

Hall of Fame baseball player Jackie Robinson once said “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Sounds a lot like a quote Blanding may receive any given morning from his mother as the cycle of positive influence on humanity perseveres to another generation.