DENVER (AP) — Colorado State coach Jay Norvell said Monday that senior safety Henry Blackburn has been receiving death threats since his late hit that hospitalized Colorado two-way star Travis Hunter.
Blackburn drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Saturday night for the blow he delivered to Hunter’s midsection on a deep pass in the first quarter of the Rocky Mountain Showdown. It was one of 17 penalties the Rams committed in their 43-35 loss in double overtime to Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes in front of a capacity crowd.
Norvell said Blackburn, who’s from Boulder, and his family had their address posted on social media. He added that police have been involved due to the serious nature of the threats.
“It’s sad that that’s the state of the world we live in. It’s a football game. Let’s not make it more than that,” Norvell said at his news conference. “We don’t want anyone to get hurt. We don’t coach that kind of football. I’ve been talking to Henry about that — I talked to him last night and I talked to him today.
“This kid should be worried about going to school and getting ready to play football. He shouldn’t be worried about that kind of nonsense.”
Sanders said after the game the 19th-ranked Buffaloes could be without Hunter for several weeks. That means Hunter will miss the game against No. 10 Oregon in Eugene on Saturday and the one at home against No. 5 Southern Cal on Sept. 30.
“We will do what we must to take care of him,” Sanders said. “We’ve got to make sure he is OK. His health is more important.”
It’s a blow to the Buffaloes as Hunter rarely leaves the field. He’s put himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion by being a lockdown cornerback and a dependable receiver. Hunter has an interception and nine tackles on defense this season. He’s also caught 16 passes for 213 yards from quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
Hunter tried to continue to play after the hit but was ruled out in the second half and was taken to a hospital.
Norvell reviewed the play and concluded that “it’s a play that happens sometimes.”
“When you throw a deep ball and you’ve got a guy playing middle safety, he’s got to react on the boundary and he’s going full speed, it was a bang-bang type of a play,” Norvell said. “It’s certainly not something that we teach or coach. It happens in football sometimes. Seems to have been a lot of attention about that play, but it’s a play that happens.”
Norvell added: “I hope Travis gets healthy and gets back out there. We certainly don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
Shedeur Sanders took exception to the blow by Blackburn along the Colorado sideline and confronted Blackburn.
“When Travis went down, it made me feel some type of way honestly. You took one of my brothers on offense, so it really hurt me,” said Shedeur Sanders, who led the Buffaloes on a game-tying 98-yard touchdown drive in the final minute of regulation and threw for touchdowns in both overtimes. “Knowing the work he put in and everything just leading up to the game and knowing you could always count on him in those moments.”
The late hit caught the attention of several athletes on social media, including Los Angeles Lakers great LeBron James who posted: “Like I don’t understand the difference between targeting and what I just witnessed. I’ve seen others get thrown out for far less. That was blatant and uncalled for IMO!”
Hall of Famer Champ Bailey, who played both ways at Georgia, said it’s risky to play both offense and defense, especially playing almost all of the snaps.
”You got a target on you,” Bailey said Sunday at the Washington Commanders-Denver Broncos game. “When people see you on the field all the time, they’re coming after you.”
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.