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Examiner
  • Blake Tarrants never misses a play, despite his blindness

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  • By Bill Althaus
    bill.althaus@examiner.net
    When members of the Blue Springs High School football team see Blake Tarrants after a game, a big smile appears on their face. “The kid knows the game, he really knows what's going on,” said linebacker Gunnar Strickland, a frequent postgame guest on the senior's www.bssdradio.net postgame report. Simone Award winning running back Dalvin Warmack agrees. “We love talking to Blake, because he loves this team,” Warmack said. “And he really asks great questions. You can tell he's paying attention to everything that's going on.” Tarrants' passion is broadcasting, and he hopes to be a part of the University of Missouri's broadcasting program this fall. That would pose a challenge to any student, but Tarrants' situation is unique because he has been blind since a bout with encephalitis robbed him of his vision when he was 18 months old. “Being blind is something most people don't realize when they hear my broadcasts, and that's the ultimate compliment,” Tarrants said after being a guest on Tim Crone's Off the Wall radio program on KCWJ 1030 AM. “It's something I'm going to have to deal with the rest of my life and I'm not going to let it stop me from doing what I love. I want to be an awesome broadcaster, and I know I can do it.” So does Matt Marble, a communications teacher who runs the Wildcat TV & Radio Network. “Blake is one of the most exceptional students I've worked with. He does a phenomenal job with our radio program at Blue Springs High School (which airs Monday and Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on www.bssdradio.net),” said Marble, who is also a defensive back coach for the Wildcats football team. “A lot of people may talk about Blake with his 'disability' in mind, but I don't see him that way anymore. The kid has a talent for sports broadcasting regardless of whether he can see a game or not. He knows sports, knows how to analyze and talk about sports, and his passion is something you can feel. “I have no doubt people in the sports world will know who Blake Tarrants is not because he's blind, but because he knows sports, has a passion for it and above that he's a genuinely good person. He brings a smile to my face every time I talk with him and I can't wait to see what his future holds.” Crone, a former head football coach and activities director at Blue Springs High School, thought enough of Tarrants' talent to have him co-host his William Jewell Coach's Show following each Cardinals football game. “I really wanted Blake to come along with me to be my wingman, because he's a chick magnet,” joked Crone, as Tarrants laughed in the background. “I haven't seen any chicks yet,” the quick-witted Tarrants replied. “I'm still waiting for that to happen.” The rapport between the veteran Crone and his protégé is heartfelt and real. “I love this kid,” Crone said. “I've never been around anyone who can break down a game like Blake – and brother, he can't see the game. But he listens. He'll sit behind us in the broadcast booth and he'll remember little details of the game I've forgotten about.” When he's not teaming up with Crone or hosting his own Wildcats programs, Tarrants can be heard from 3 to 4 p.m. Mondays on KCWJ where he talks about – what else? – sports. “Some people are born with natural athletic ability,” said Ken Ball, the general manager at KCWJ who has made high school sports one of the station's priorities, as it also airs The Sonic Locker Room, pre-game football on Fridays and every Blue Springs and Blue Springs South home football game with Hall of Fame broadcaster Dale Carter, former Blue Springs South coach Buddy Young and Crone. “Blake was born with a natural broadcasting ability. You either have it or you don't. It can be groomed, and you can work to improve, but you have to have the ability, and he has a great deal of ability. I knew it the first time I heard him on the air.” No one is prouder of Blake's accomplishments than his father, Mike, the activities director at Grain Valley High School. “Blake comes from a sports family,” said Tarrants, a former football coach. “He loves broadcasting and he has never used his blindness as an excuse for anything in his life. He's thriving in a sighted world, and we're very proud of him.” When asked to give a scouting report on the Wildcats, Blake goes off on a 15-minute, player-by-player highlight reel that includes statistics and big plays they have made. One question brings a puzzled look to the young man's face. What game plan would he devise to beat the 10-0 defending Class 6 state champion Wildcats? “I don't think there is one,” he said. “You just have to hope they don't play that well – and I don't think that's going to happen.”

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