Two Poplar Bluff natives travel to Charlotte, North Carolina for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship soccer game on Saturday night to watch their grandson play.
Lee James Gladney and Tina Blackman-Gladney have followed Pitt’s football team for the past two seasons to watch No.3 Jordan Addison, who is the son of their eldest daughter Keisha Blackman-Gladney.
“It’s awesome,” Tina said recently over the phone from their home in Maryland.
“Even if they get to a bowl game, we’ll be at the bowl game as well.”
Pitt (10-2) faces Wake Forest (10-2) in the ACC Championship game (7 p.m. tonight on ABC).
Addison was born in Frederick, Maryland, and raised just outside Washington DC, where his older brother played college football and is currently working on his Masters. When he was 5, Jordan signed up to play Pee-Wee in the same league that produced NFL wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
In high school where he won a state title in the long jump, Addison’s recruiting resumed after a camp featuring Maryland receivers coach Chris Beatty, who then moved on to Pitt. Notre Dame was also in the mix but wanted the 6ft Addison to play the defensive back.
An all-state player in two positions, Addison wanted to play the receiver and ended up at Pitt where he is enjoying a second breakout season.
Addison is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award for top receiver in college football, along with David Bell of Purdue and Jameson Williams of Alabama.
DeVonta Smith of Alabama won the award last year, while previous winners include Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald with runners-up like Dez Bryant and Keyshawn Johnson. The winner will be announced Thursday night at the College Football Awards Ceremony while the 28th Annual Biletnikoff Prize Banquet takes place on March 5 in Tallahassee, Florida.
Voters have already voted and looking at the numbers, Addison has had a stellar season.
Addison leads the nation in touchdown receptions with 17, four more than AT Perry of Wake Forest and receivers from Ohio State and Alabama. He’s also seventh overall in touchdowns (18), tied with Missouri’s Tyler Badie and five others.
Addison is fourth nationally in receiving yards (1,353) and 13th in receiving (85).
Last season, as a true rookie, Addison averaged 11.1 yards per catch with 60, scoring four touchdowns.
Addison also returns punters, averaging 14.6 yards per return this season.
Pitt’s two losses were at home to Western Michigan by a field goal and by four at home to Miami after leading 31-17 at halftime.
Both losses came after strong wins, winning first at Tennessee 41-34, then beating Clemson 27-17.
The Panthers have won four in a row and climbed to 17th place in the Associated Press poll. They face Wake Forest, 18th in the standings, for the ACC title. Both teams have the highest-ranked offenses in the conference, each averaging nearly 43 points per game.
“We’re going to take advantage of it,” said Tina, a 1980 Poplar Bluff high school graduate.
Tina’s father and brothers all played baseball or soccer.
Lee played soccer and raced for the Mules, along with his brothers Mark and Jim. Jim Gladney was an All-SEMO running back and defensive back who won the Carr Trophy in 1983, the first Poplar Bluff to be named the conference’s Most Outstanding Player.
“We started with Mr. Sam Giambelluca,” Lee said. “He’s the one who really pushed us to take us to the level that we have reached in sports at Poplar Bluff.”
Even after moving to Maryland, the Gladneys made sure their five children and later their grandchildren knew the city the family came from.
“I’m from PB. I’m bleeding brown from Poplar Bluff Mules, ”Lee said. “It’s been 41 years but I’m a real Mule, like Wesley Lewis said.”
That’s why Lee is hoping to host a camp at Poplar Bluff this summer with his grandson and a few Pitt teammates to train with athletes from Southeast Missouri.
Addison last visited Poplar Bluff when he was 6 or 7, her grandparents said, when they tend to come back several times a year to visit family.
“Our goal is to bring Jordan back to Bluff and give these kids an opportunity, that way Pitt, Penn State, and Maryland come to Bluff and start recruiting these kids,” Lee said.
“Our main goal is to showcase the Bootheel. “
This fall, and perhaps even more over the next few days, the spotlight has been on Addison.