The Rams will not penalize CSU defender Henry Blackburn for his hit on CU Buffs football standout Travis Hunter, Rams athletic department officials confirmed to The Post on Monday.
However, Blackburn and his family received death threats during and after the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Folsom Field this past Saturday night, said to football coach Jay Norvell during his weekly news conference at Canvas Stadium.
“The police department is supporting him because of the seriousness of the threats that have come out of this,” Norvell said of Blackburn, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct late in the first quarter after striking Hunter in the chest while chasing down an incomplete pass from quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
“I mean, it’s just sad.” It’s unfortunate that this is the status of the world we live in. It’s a football game, after all. Let’s not go any further than that. We don’t want anyone to be harmed. That’s not the type of football we coach.”
On the play in issue, Blackburn was in deep coverage, and Hunter did not appear to see the CSU defender before making contact. The two-way star and Jackson State transfer crumbled at the visitors’ sideline. Shedeur Sanders confronted Blackburn right away, and officials intervened to separate the two. The defender, who attended Boulder’s Fairview High School, was not thought to have led with his head or targeted Hunter above the shoulders and thus remained in the game, which the Rams lost in double overtime, 43-35.
Hunter returned to the game in the second quarter, but was taken out at halftime and sent to a nearby hospital for assessment. According to several media sources, the Georgia native did not return and suffered a lacerated liver that will keep him out for at least three weeks.
“I hope everybody’s healthy; I hope Travis gets healthy and gets back out there,” Norvell said ahead of CSU’s weekend game against 1-2 Middle Tennessee. “We certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
The hit was described by Norvell as a “bang-bang type of play,” but he did not believe it was malicious or justified discipline from the school or the Mountain West Conference.
“When you throw a deep ball and you’ve got a guy playing middle safety, he has to react on the boundary and he’s going full speed,” Norvell explained. “The officials examined it, and we examined it.” It’s not something we teach or coach, but it does happen in football occasionally. As a result, there appears to have been a lot of interest in that play. However, it is a play that occurs.”
The Rams coach voiced concern that Hunter’s social media popularity, which had 978,000 Instagram followers as of early Monday, and that of CU coach Deion Sanders, whom Norvell verbally chastised late last week, have only fueled the animosity directed at his safety.
Blackburn’s song was also mocked by celebrities such as LeBron James and JJ Watt on the “X” platform.
“We had a player get death threats, and his family get death threats, and their address (get) posted all over Instagram and social media,” Norvell explained. “And I don’t think those kinds of things belong in college football.” And I hope there is some accountability (for) such actions.
“I’m also concerned about our children.” These are teenagers aged 18 to 22. They participate in college football. I know a lot of people get excited about it, but it has no place in athletics or sports.
“I believe we have a responsibility, and I believe we must be cautious in today’s age, with all of the information and everything that is available, that sometimes all of this stuff becomes real and it is not real.” It’s something someone made on the internet or something, or a campaign someone is running for someone else…
“Checking your phone every time it buzzes and seeing the headline is not reality.” That was just something someone made on YouTube. So I believe we must use caution in this regard. People who aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in college athletics get their news from that, from YouTube, and from other sources.
“And I’m not opposed to it.” I look at those stuff as well. But I believe you must be mature and adult in order to accept that information…
“You must also use caution. And I believe that responsible individuals must reinterpret what is going on in the globe. And failing to do so is irresponsible. In my perspective, there is a lot of carelessness in the media… Too often, I believe, people become comfortable and substitute anything they see on social media for news. It’s not breaking news. It’s a piece of propaganda. So don’t regard that as breaking news.”