Blake Cashman has always had to earn everything that has come his way. A former preferred walk-on at Minnesota, Cashman worked his way up the depth chart for the Gophers and became a defensive regular last season. And on Saturday, he became a member of the New York Jets when he was selected in the fifth round, No 157 overall.
"It's everything I've dreamed of and it's something I've always had my eyes set on," Cashman told Olivia Landis after his selection. "Ever since I walked on, I told myself two things and that was I was going to be a starter and team captain at Minnesota and then have an opportunity at the NFL."
Cashman, whose father played football at St. Thomas University, was part of four state championship teams at Eden Prairie HS while playing cornerback and linebacker. He was a special teams regular as a freshman at Minnesota before racking up 7.5 sacks his sophomore campaign. He concluded that second collegiate season with a Holiday Bowl Defensive MVP award after tallying 12 stops and a sack in a 17-12 takedown of Washington State.
"I feel like I can be someone that impacts the team day one, whether it be on special teams or defense, or both. I really see myself as somebody in maybe nickel or dime packages, getting after the quarterback or having to dart guys in man coverage, whether that be the quick backs out of the backfield or more athletic tight ends," he said. "I do feel like I have good athleticism and I have good speed, so just the way the game is going now, it's kind of a lot of speed on the field. Offenses like to spread defenses out so I think they can plug me in many different areas to wreak havoc a little bit."
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Known as an all-effort performer, Cashman captured the Gary Tinsley Award after both his sophomore and junior campaigns. The honor goes to the Minnesota player who "best embodied the underdog spirit" of the late Gopher.
"I felt like I really dedicated myself to improving each year to set myself up for this opportunity right now," he said. "It's amazing, I'm speechless to finally see it all come together. With that being said, I know there's still so much work to be done and so much more I have to develop as a player. I'm someone that loves to get to work and I cannot wait."
Last season, the 6'2", 235-pound Cashman started 11 games and paced Minnesota with 104 tackles in addition to 2.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
Then at the NFL Combine in February, Cashman bolstered his draft stock by posting a 4.50 40-yard dash and recording a broad jump of 124 inches. He should provide depth on the inside behind Mike 'backer C.J. Mosley and also would figure to carve out a prominent roles on special teams under Brant Boyer.
"We spoke once through this," Cashman said of Boyer. "I mainly spoke with the Jets scouts. They stayed in touch with me from the combine through the draft process and then until now. But I know he (Boyer) has a great plan for me and he's told me that my film is great and he has a lot of fun things he can do with me just based off of my versatility as a player."