Jack Blankenship (Hal Yeager/Birmingham News)From a snarling Saddam Hussein, to a grinning Hulk Hogan, to a sultry Marilyn Monroe, students across the nation have waved all sorts of giant celebrity heads this season in an effort to distract opposing free-throw shooters.
Alabama freshman Jack Blankenship thought those big heads were a fun idea, but he wanted to add his own clever twist to the trend. As a result, the Tuscaloosa native has begun showing up to Crimson Tide basketball games this month with a giant picture of his own contorted face in tow.
"I never really saw the relevance of having pictures of celebrities, so I figured why not have a picture of me," Blankenship said. "I thought it would be something a little different."
The unusual sight of a student waving a giant picture of his own face has drawn far more attention than Blankenship ever expected.
ESPN2 cameras caught him with the sign during Alabama's 69-67 overtime victory over Ole Miss on Feb. 4, prompting announcer Pam Ward to remark, "This guy ... who does that? I mean, who makes a picture of themselves?" Birmingham News photographer Hal Yeager also captured Blankenship making the same unusual facial expression as he is in the picture during Tuesday's loss to Florida.
The spread of that photo and video via social media has turned Blankenship into a mini-campus celebrity. He has gained 200 Twitter followers the past 24 hours and fellow students now recognize him on campus.
"I was walking to class today, and two strangers came up to me and said, 'Oh, you're the guy with the face,'" Blankenship said. "Pretty wild to say the least."
The expression Blankenship makes in the picture is one he and some of his closest friends have made since middle school as an inside joke. They've taken group photos doing that face and in April 2010 Blankenship even appeared in the background on the "Today" show making it.
Blankenship plans to launch a stand-up comedy club at Alabama soon and aspires to be a comedian someday. In the meantime, he'll keep bringing his now-famous sign to basketball games — perhaps with some new twists.
"Maybe I'll bring a picture of my dog the next time," Blankenship said. "I'll find a way to keep it original."
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