Blahut soars like an eagle

Published Jul 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm (Updated Jul 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm)

Face your fears and they will disappear. At an early age, Jacob Blahut of Mt. Lebanon learned that lesson. Today, it serves him well as he tackles life’s obstacles.

On his first camping trip as a Webelo in the Boy Scouts of America organization, Blahut shivered in his sleeping bag, somewhere near Trax Farms in Finleyville. Cold, frightened and all alone, the then second-grade student at St. Bernard Elementary School remained awake all night.

“I called my mom, but I wasn’t allowed to come home,” said the son of Janice and Robert Blahut. “I cried my eyes out. It was the worst night of my life but I made it through. I survived.

“There was something about knowing I did that – that I found something in myself to overcome that fear,” he continued. “It was like a revelation to me. If I could do that, then what else can I do.”

By age 17, Blahut has done plenty.

Academically, he shines with a 4.7 GPA. The rising senior also belongs to the National Honor Society. Athletically, he begins his fourth season of football this fall at Seton-La Salle High School. A defender on the lacrosse team for three seasons, he helped the Rebels win their first WPIAL championship in the spring of 2013. Socially, Blahut is an Eagle Scout. A member of Troop 65, he recently attained that rank, which is the highest in the scouting program.

“It is a rare combination, being a football player and an Eagle Scout. To be honest, I didn’t know what being one entailed so I had to Google it,” said SLS first-year head coach Damon Rosol. “After reading the prerequisites, it is easy to see how that part of his life has shaped and molded (Jacob) into the young man that he is. The merit badges that one must acquire to reach Eagle Scout status are skills that will last someone a lifetime while also providing tremendous balance in one’s life.”

A minimum 21 merit badges are necessary to reach the Eagle Scout level. Thirteen are required. These include camping, citizenship, communications, cooking, emergency preparedness, environmental science or sustainability, family life, first aid, personal fitness and management. In addition, Blahut had to plan, develop, lead and complete a service project that demonstrated leadership and commitment to duty.

For his Eagle project, Blahut erected Stations of the Cross and refurbished a Peace Garden at Saint Winifred Church. After weeding and clearing an overgrown hill, Blahut mulched and finished the garden before he carved out the crosses with wood purchased from a nearby Lowe’s. He then affixed the stations. The $600 fixtures were imported and hand-crafted from Belguim. “They cost a pretty penny,” Blahut admitted shyly.

Most of the money, more than $1,600, for the project came from parishioners, to whom Blahut spoke after Mass. Because of scouting, Blahut was not afraid to ask for donations from the pulpit.

“Thanks to scouting, I am comfortable in front of crowds. I used to get nervous speaking, but once I get started now it comes naturally. It’s given me confidence,” said Blahut, noting he spent a whole quarter delivering speeches for a class in school.

Blahut said that he picked Saint Winifred because he wanted to give something back to his parish. “They raised me and taught me many lessons in life,” he said.

Plus, his faith is central to his existence. In fact, Blahut belongs to Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “My religion is key to my life. That’s why I wanted to give back with my Eagle project,” Blahut said. “My relationship with God is strong and I like to keep in touch and look for guidance. He teaches me a lot, like how to be a good person.”

Scouting, too, has taught Blahut much. He says that the best thing about the organization is that it develops people skills, especially leadership. “You work with people and overcome obstacles.”

Hence, scouting has come in handy in Blahut’s athletic activities. He says that there is a ‘definite’ correlation between sports and scouts as each take time, commitment and dedication. “Each practice, each problem requires a person to be determined,” he said. “Your actions bind you together with your teammates. Both sports and scouting teach you to be a better person and they teach you humility. You know how to do things and you are able to do them, but you don’t become cocky and arrogant.”

In sports and in scouting, one learns by doing and working. And, Blahut works, says Rosol. New to his position as head coach at SLS, Rosol said he has watched plenty of film on Blahut and has seen him perform during spring workouts.

“Jacob is a high motor kid, whose hustle and want-to are evident,” Rosol said. “It is nice to see a defensive lineman who, one, gets to the quarterback and two, always seems to find his way to the ball carrier.”

Last season, Blahut played with his hand in the dirt the entire time at defensive end but in SLS’s scheme this season, the Rebels are asking him to play in space more, says Rosol. A two-time all-conference lineman, Blahut moves from end to outside linebacker on defense and from center to tackle on offense. “It’s something that we believe he can do and is something that he has been very receptive to.”

Rosol and his teammates have been receptive to Blahut’s guidance. He is the go-to guy in the weight room because his natural leadership skills standout. Rosol cited the last few weeks as an example. “We have had our freshmen beginning to attend weight-room workouts, some of whom have never played before,” he said. “Jacob has taken them aside, showing them our workout so as to make them feel comfortable with what we are trying to do. Other seniors have witnessed him do that, which has led to them doing the same thing.”

While he has played football since fourth grade, Blahut doesn’t expect SLS to do the same thing this fall. In 2013, the Rebels finished ?-? overall. The Rebels welcome the opportunity to unseat their top rival South Fayette. The Lions are the defending WPIAL and PIAA champions.

“South Fayette is a bigger rivalry for us now than KO,” said Blahut of SLS’s cross-street foe, Keystone Oaks. “We break (our huddle) on state champions. That’s our goal. We want to go all the way. Go for it all.”

Whether it’s sports, school or scouts, Blahut goes full tilt. He spends at least 10 hours per week with scouting, organizing and planning. He dedicates even more to off-season training. While his dad describes it as a ‘violent acquisition game,’ football, like scouting, is something special to Blahut.

“Like scouting, I get a lot out of it,” he said. “Football has taught me how to work hard, set goals and get back up is I get knocked down. You have to have guts. You have to have that to be successful in life.”

Once he finishes high school, Blahut intends to be even more successful. He plans to attend an Ivy League college, perhaps Penn or Princeton, and major in engineering or chemistry.

“I like the idea of helping people. I’m actually thinking maybe medical school,” he added. “If I don’t like it, then I still would have an engineering degree.”

Again, Blahut falls back on scouting’s tenets. He’s always prepared. However, he always stays true to himself regardless of his apprehensions. “I’m not exactly fearless. I still think the worst thing is being cold but it’s like anything else. If you are not prepared for something, you can’t overcome it.

“But,” he cautioned. “You can’t sacrifice your values. You can’t sacrifice what you believe in and what is right. You have to stand by your values. Live by your word.”

Whether in sports or in life, that is exactly what Blahut does.

“Jacob definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer,” Rosol said, “That is something from which today’s youth can learn.”

JOIN SCOUTING

Boy Scouts of America Troop 65 is located in Mt. Lebanon. Meetings are held 7:30-9 p.m. Thursdays at Sunset Hills Presbyterian Church in the upstairs hall. Visit www.lebotroop65.com for more details.

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