In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 19-year-old Presbyterian Jack Blankenship has become the face of campus ministry. On February 4, at a University of Alabama men’s home basketball game against Ole Miss, he held up a giant face poster of himself making a face he has made since he was 12. On Wednesday, February 15, the Birmingham News printed this photo, and calls started coming for guest appearances on The Today Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Inside Edition. “It’s been very strange,” says Blankenship, “being on the street in New York, in Times Square, people coming up to you recognizing you. I liked it a lot, but it’s a very tiring thing.”
As his face has gone viral, Blankenship has learned valuable lessons. It’s made him “stronger, more patient, and wiser” he says, “but I’m still just a kid having fun.” He has recognized “some people just want you for your fame,” which makes him appreciate even more what he experiences at Alabama’s Presbyterian campus ministry. “It’s been such a good thing for me to experience lots of diversity, where everyone is different but we all get along. It’s really peaceful. You don’t get that in a lot places in the world or on campus.”
Blankenship gives an assist to his former youth pastor Patrick Laney and to campus minister James Goodlet for inspiring him to create his giant face poster. “Both of those guys are big into basketball and having fun in life.” Blankenship, who considers himself a bit of comedian, thinks that’s probably why his “goofy” face has taken off like wildfire. “It’s not provocative, it’s just good clean humor,” he says. “People don’t see that much anymore.”
Being known as the face of campus ministry is a good thing. “I’m having fun; I’m not doing anything sinful. People shouldn’t take things so seriously. I’m distracting fans from doing something mean like having bad sportsmanship or yelling obscenities at the refs.”
Blankenship, who grew up in First Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa, is proud of this fact: since he started holding up his giant face poster, the shooting percentage for free throws by Alabama opponents has gone down 19.5 percent. “That’s because they’ve had to look at my mug,” he laughs, and then delivers what he says has become his best line: “I am the 19.5 percent. My giant face will be at the Mississippi State game Saturday night (Feb. 25) at 5 p.m. on ESPN.”
Editor’s note: Collegiate Ministries of the General Assembly Council is working with a collegiate ministry task force to outline ways for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to reach, love, and teach college students like Jack Blankenship. Read more.