Jay Blount: Trojan Receives Civilian Purple Heart
In his hospital room recuperating from a high school football knee injury, Jay Blount got a second chance. The offensive lineman had missed most of his senior season at Indianola Academy and didn’t know what his future held. Unbeknownst to him, the future was football, education, Louisiana oil fields, the Army and civilian work for the Armed Forces that garnered him the Civilian Purple Heart for injuries he sustained while in Iraq.
But it was a visit from the late Jimmy Bellipanni and Jim Randall – MDJC assistant and head football coaches in his Memphis hospital room that turned into quite the blessing. They offered a scholarship and he began his journey as a Trojan.
“I had a cast from the end of my toes to my groin,” he recalled. “They came wandering in, talking to me, seeing how I was doing and telling me to get my spirits up because things weren’t over with. Then Coach Randall saying, ‘do you think you want to play football anymore?’”
Blount wasn’t even sure if he was going to be able to walk, much less play in the tough JUCO competition the Trojans jumped into each week. A scholarship was offered, Blount accepted.
“I said if you’re crazy enough to come all the way up here and offer me that and I don’t even know if I can walk, then I’ll be seeing you when football season starts.”
Blount showed up but had to clear another hurdle before taking the field. He didn’t graduate from high school, so Coach Randall sent him to Delta State to take on that hurdle.
“She finished grading it and said, ‘You can go back and tell Coach Randall that you’re ok. You just got your high school diploma.’ She asked me, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ And I said what do you mean? She said, ‘Well, you maxxed out everything on here.’ I said, is it school oriented? Then that’s the problem.”
Blount would help the Trojans on the field as they climbed to a state championship his freshman year, the second for then MDJC, defeating Jones County, 7-0, at Trojan Field. His sophomore year, the team travelled to Poplarville and upset the nationally ranked Pearl River Junior College for their second straight state championship, 21-17.
“As a freshman, the sophomores had just won the North Half of the State and played in the state championship and got beat by about six points by Gulf Coast,” Blount said. “They were veterans and Coach Randall had loaded the bench and we ended up, I think 9-2 my freshman year. My sophomore year we had more good players come in and I think we went 9-2 again that year.”
Blount and his teammates spent plenty of non-practice time at Macon Lake and while living in the “old” athletic dorm, he recalled shooting a deer on the baseball field from his dorm window. In the spring, he would withdraw from school and headed to the Louisiana oil fields. There a gentleman told Blount he needed to be in the Army. He enlisted and spent six years in the military and even played football in Germany in what would be the pre-cursor to the NFLs World League. Now with some discipline in his life, Blount headed back to Moorhead to clean up his academic mess. While there he found that the teachings that the late Mr. Charlie Joiner was espousing in his Western Civilization class was more understandable now that Blount had seen and stood on the ground Joiner spoke of.
“I went back in 1981 and took everything I had dropped out of. I ended up making the Dean’s List and was two points from the President’s List,” Blount said.
Blount also figured out he had a year of football eligibility left. After getting his grades in order and being almost 30 years old, he headed to Cleveland with a dream to play again.
“I didn’t want to be one of those folks who looks back and said I wish I shoulda, coulda or woulda done something,” Blount said. “Coach Plummer said, ‘I don’t care if you don’t catch the world on fire. What I want is for you to be in shape and I can say I have a 30-year-old out there and y’all better be in front of him and not behind him.’”
With his GI Bill paying for his tuition, he asked for a room in the dorm from Coach Plummer and joined the Statesmen. He would pick up a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before becoming a school teacher in Greenville and later going back to work for the Armed Forces as a civilian contractor building gyms, fields and workout areas for US Troops. While there in 2008, his caravan hit an IED and Blount was severely wounded.
“I was in the middle of the convoy with 50 trucks in front and 50 in the back,” Blount said. “We were about halfway to Mosul and passed a village in the mountains. The next thing you know we were thrown up in the air, flipped up over to the other side and probably about 200 yards got pushed across the dessert form the percussion and blast. The door was blown off and the roof was peeled back like a sardine can.”
Four contractors were killed and another sixteen were injured. Blount helped with the rescue and recovery of all the injured and dead. When he got back to the base the commander ordered him to get checked out. Blount noted the blood on his uniform wasn’t his but he had several injuries he was unaware of at the time.
“By the time we got to the hospital, I woke up the following night and I had a concussion, broken right collarbone, the left long and short tendons in my shoulder and biceps were snapped in two, I had cramped a lot of arteries across my lap from that 60 pound vest slammed into you. You can’t put a number on getting whiplash. It’s been 11 years and I’m still doing doctor’s appointment. In the end, they said I was on an adrenaline rush and didn’t feel any pain.”
A week later, Blount was sent back to the states to begin his long recovery. The Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom was established after the events of September 11, 2001. Blount was nominated for the medal in 2013 but the health of then Senator Thad Cochran and government red tape held up the honor. Years later he was honored with the Civilian Purple Heart by Senator Cindy Hyde Smith. These days, Blount is still recuperating with additional surgeries and trying to enjoy his retirement. When he looks back on his time at Moorhead, several faculty, staff and instructors who helped him come to mind.
“It was fun and the teachers were always, always helpful, do whatever they could to help you understand what was going on. I just didn’t pay much attention the first two years I was there,” Blount said. “It took going to the Army and coming back. Dean (Travis) Thornton was a big help because he’d always have to figure out what I was doing. Dean Mac (Robert McClellan) he was the like the FBI and tried to keep you out of trouble. Joe Carley and Joe Ray and of course, Betty Aden and Brenda Grubbs and Coach Grubbs.”
Success for Jay Blount began with hope in a hospital bed from a MDJC coach who believed in him. A Trojan for a lifetime, Jay Blount.