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Williamsport great Darrell Blackman has No. 2 retired at WAHS

EVAN WHEATON/Sun-Gazette Williamsport great Darrell Blackman had his jersey number retired at halftime of Friday’s game against Mifflin County. He joined Larry Kelley (No. 31), Gary Brown (No. 28) and Matt Neenan (No. 78) to have their jerseys retired.

Just over the hill, suspended from the crimson STA Stadium press box, is a small collection of history at Williamsport Area High School.

Larry Kelley, the 1932 grad and 1936 Heisman Trophy recipient, cemented his legacy with the Millionaires with his No. 31 overlooking the field. On either side of that red plate fastened to the fence are two other names from more recent generations — Gary Brown (1987) and Matt Neenan (1990).

Those three retired numbers — 31, 28 and 78 — were joined by another on Friday night.

Williamsport football welcomed Darrell Blackman to the field at halftime during a home game against Mifflin County. The 2003 Williamsport graduate — who currently holds the all-time rushing title for the Millionaires at 6,761 career yards — had his No. 2 jersey placed high among the elite four.

“These are things kids dream about, players dream about. Little kids watching professionals, they dream about things like that themselves,” Blackman said of his high school jersey retirement Friday night. “I think it’s a good experience, one of the best anybody could feel.”

Blackman was joined by his family while they stood with the red board, his last name stretched atop, to a standing ovation from the bleachers.

As the legacy Blackman left behind on the hill was being celebrated, he recalled how the moment never felt in the cards for him. All those game days, leaving it all out on the field under the lights and going to battle with his guys, there was never a moment where Blackman pictured himself obtaining any awards, accolades or milestones on the gridiron.

“It’s a surreal feeling. I couldn’t have dreamed of or even thought of this happening. Playing here, I couldn’t imagine some of the things I’ve accomplished myself,” Blackman said. “There weren’t a lot of times where they told me I was even close to any kind of record.”

The records kept coming at the next level.

While playing at NC State, Blackman shifted to wide receiver. He was named second team All-ACC as a specialist after ranking sixth in the ACC in kick return average (22.5) and second in punt return average (12.4).

Blackman also ranked fourth in the league in all-purpose yards per game at 135.3. A standout for the Wolfpack, Blackman carried the same energy of his high school days in his game. It goes back to the camaraderie on that hill where his No. 2 now hangs high above.

“Being able to share the feeling with my teammates, all my friends who I grew up with,” Blackman said of his biggest takeaway from varsity. “A lot of us played football from pop warner. … Mostly it’s just being with the guys on the field and being with my friends. That’s one of the biggest things I can take away from my experience here.”

The Class 6A powerhouse is keeping up offensive production at the college level too. Williamsport’s Treyson Potts shined in his first start at the University of Minnesota on Saturday with 178 yards and two touchdowns following two prior ACL tears.

Seeing the players coming up now and going through the motions is a welcome sight for Blackman.

“It’s good seeing this. We have a few players here now that I know of who are doing big things or in the process of doing big things,” Blackman said. “To come back into town and see how much everything has changed, the feel, y’know, everything, it’s just exciting.”

There’s no telling how many more numbers will look over STA Stadium in the future. Williamsport has had more than its share of dominant players throughout program history. But for all future generations of Millionaires football, they’ll look up and see No. 2.

“I’m proud of it, that’s a big accomplishment,” Blackman said. “Now, forever, they’ll see that name ‘Blackman,’ that No. 2 jersey that’s sitting in the rafters.”

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