Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
Comedians will tell you that timing is everything. Matt Blair understands that concept. "I've always seemed to have things happen for me at the right time," he said.
It's time for Blair to be honored again. He has been selected as Iowa State's Big 12 Conference legend. He will be honored along with the other 11 Legends the weekend of the Dr. Pepper Football Championship game in Kansas City Dec. 5-6.
"Iowa State is where the turning point of my life happened," Blair said. "In one summer, I grew three inches and put on 45 pounds and I became something special physically. Those years at Iowa State were a special time of my life.
"Somebody calls and tells you that you've been selected as a legend and you really don't feel like you're a legend. But I just did what they told me to do."
Blair's father was in the military so the family lived all over the world. Matt Blair was born in Hawaii and lived Spain, Idaho, Texas and Ohio. He finished his high school career in Ohio and received little interest from college recruiters.
"I went to a junior college in Oklahoma," said Blair, who was 6-3 and 185 pounds when he finished his prep career. "I was a defensive back and played basketball; half my scholarship was from the basketball team. I didn't even make the football traveling squad as a freshman."
The summer between his freshman and sophomore years, Blair turned into a 6-6, 225-pounder going into the 1970 football season.
"The coaches told me, 'You can play anywhere you want to," Blair said with a laugh. "They couldn't believe how big I got."
Blair had Division I scholarship offers in football and basketball but he chose to play for Johnny Majors at Iowa State.
"One of the things that sold me was they told me I had to work for a starting spot," Blair said. "A lot of the other schools were telling me I could start no matter what. I wanted to work for it."
Blair's size coupled with the agility and mobility he gained playing basketball turned him into a feared linebacker. Blair was able to stuff the run and drop into pass coverage.
In his first season at Iowa State, the Cyclones played in the Sun Bowl where Blair was named the most valuable player. However, in 1972, a knee injury sidelined Blair; he used a redshirt season to recover.
Blair returned to the field in 1973 and played for first-year coach Earle Bruce, who took over when Majors took the Pittsburgh job. And while his NFL Draft stock had dropped because of the knee injury, he was a second-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings.
"That's the best thing that ever happened to me," Blair said. "Talk about legends. I was playing with Carl Eller, Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Paul Krause, Fran Tarkenton ... I had a chance to play with those guys."
Blair followed their examples. He played 12 seasons for the Vikings and played in six Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls.
His football career taught him the value of teamwork, particularly at Iowa State. When the Cyclones faced teams like Nebraska and Oklahoma, they needed to play mistake-free, all-for-one football.
"You need 11 guys working together on every play," Blair said. "If only 10 guys do what they're supposed to you're not gonna be successful. It's shared responsibility. That's one thing that I learned in my athletic career."
During his dozen years in the NFL, he found himself attending many charity events and an idea was born. He currently runs Matt Blair's Celebrity Promotions, Inc. His company customizes events putting celebrities together with organizations and handles everything.
"I first started making appearances for Multiple Sclerosis," said Blair, who has written three books with the proceeds going to charities. "I started bringing my teammates to different events. After I retired, I started taking groups to the Super Bowl, The Masters, the Final Four. Then I started doing events around Minneapolis. "What it comes down to is trying to do your best," Blair said.