Blackburn named Director of UH Track & Field
To say he has been living the dream is an understatement for former Dayton Bronco and Dayton Sports Hall of Fame member Will Blackburn, who was named the University of Houston’s Director of Track and Field last week. He has spent over a quarter of a century as a competitor and coach at his alma mater, with perhaps the most significant chapter just beginning.
“It’s a dream come true, no doubt,” said Blackburn.
A 1995 graduate of Dayton High School, he was a standout athlete for the Broncos on both the football field and track and field. On the gridiron, he was selected Most Valuable Lineman as a junior while receiving Most Valuable Player in football and Male Athlete of the Year honors his senior season. In track, he was a force and won the district championship in the shot put, while qualifying for regionals in shot and discus.
Blackburn made an immediate and lasting impact on the Broncos, where he competed for only two seasons after his family relocated here just before his junior year.
“Although he wasn’t here all four years at Dayton, we’re going to claim him. We’re proud of you, proud of your accomplishments. Every time that we hear about the University of Houston Track program, we tell people that one of their coaches is a Dayton graduate,” Larry Wadzeck said when inducting Blackburn into the hall of fame last October.
Blackburn is still fond of his time in Dayton, where his parents still reside, and his father Mike Blackburn serves as the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church.
He believes that the influence of coaches like Dayton ISD Athletic Director Jeff Nations, former Bronco Head Coach Larry Sherman, Quinn Wood, and Daryl Bell greatly impacted him as a coach and person.
“Dayton was a great place for me. The teammates I had there were just fantastic, and the coaches just really meant a lot. They were not just coaches but mentors as well, and that’s my goal when I’m out here coaching. I hope that I can make them proud,” said Blackburn.
“As a former coach of Will’s, I could not be more proud of him and excited for this new role of his. Will has always been an extremely hard worker, and his dedication to Cougar Track is being rewarded. Will was my first regional qualifier in the shot and disc when I came to Dayton in 1994, so it has been fun watching him grow into the Coach and leader he is now,” Nations said.
After graduating from Dayton, Blackburn went to the University of Houston on a track and field scholarship, where he competed in the discus and learned from Hall of Fame Coach Tom Tellez. He would go on to win a Conference-USA championship as a competitor in his time at Houston.
Blackburn is grateful for Tellez’s influence on him and how he helped inspire him to pursue his dream of becoming a coach.
“You know I came here in 1995 as a freshman and was under Coach Tellez until he retired. You know, I got to hanging out with Coach T on the weekends, and with him coaching me, I just got the coaching vibe, bottom line, he was a super great technician, and he just really cared about the athletes and was someone that I just really aspired to be more like,” said Blackburn
Upon graduation from Houston, Blackburn joined the coaching staff and has remained there for the last 22 years. Most recently, he has served as Associate Head Coach under Leroy Burrell, a two-time former World Record holder in the 100 meters, until Burrell’s recent departure to take over the reins at Auburn University.
Blackburn will continue to coach throwing events and horizontal jumps for the Cougar track team while he oversees the day-to-day operations and recruiting of the program.
During his coaching tenure, Blackburn has been a part of 42 team conference championships while coaching 10 All-Americans and 45 individual conference champions.
Joining Blackburn on the coaching staff is new Houston Head Coach Carl Lewis, another Houston alumni.
Lewis is one of the greatest track stars in history, winning 22 gold medals in international athletic competitions, including nine first-place Olympic gold medals, which only two athletes have ever done. He also won six national championships and nine individual Southwest Conference Championships at Houston.
“I am excited to continue with this staff on our journey to win a national championship,” Lewis said. “We wanted to continue the legacy of Leroy Burrell and Tom Tellez and agreed this was the way to do it. Will and I have known each other for multiple years and are looking forward to leading this team to all the things we want to do and keeping the history and tradition of #HTownSpeedCity alive.”
The pair have become great friends and bonded while coaching and traveling around recruiting. Blackburn believes they have the same goal for the program as they take UH into the future.
“It’s going to be a situation where both of us are working to move this ship in the right direction, including all the staff that has been here. It’s just tremendous. Everyone is just extremely excited about it,” concluded Blackburn.
Stay up to date with the UH Track and Field program by visiting them on the web at uhcougars.com, as the Cougars prepare to join the Big 12 Conference in 2023.