From the orphanage to college soccer: Michael Blackburn’s incredible story

michael blackburnFishburne Military School soccer standout Michael Blackburn signed his letter of intent to continue his athletic career at Potomac State College on Monday. And that’s not even close to the most interesting thing that you can know about Blackburn, who spent his formative years in a Kazakhstan orphanage where he picked up soccer and a sense of determination that should inspire anybody reading this story.

“All the skills I learned in orphanage have paid off,” said Blackburn, the most valuable player on FMS coach Brian Greene’s squads in each of his three years on campus.

Greene remembers Blackburn as a freshman “being a talented player, very skilled, who just needed to learn to be a team player.”

Then Green learned his future MVP’s backstory, “and it was like, Wow.”

Blackburn had been left at the orphanage at age 6 and lived there until 14, when a California family brought him to the States. His adopted mother enrolled and pulled him from several schools before sending him to Fishburne in 2010. Blackburn began to flourish at FMS, but had to endure separation again last year when his adopted family decided to cut ties with him.

Enter Carrie Miller-Blackburn, a faculty member at Fishburne, who with her husband, Kevin, a well-known local photographer, decided to take Michael in, eventually adopting him last summer.

The Blackburns pushed their son to pursue soccer after high school, and began what Miller-Blackburn described as a “grueling process” to get Michael in front of college recruiters.

He settled on Potomac State, which offers two- and four-year degrees, after researching his options with Russ Ingersoll, a local college advisor who retired from a stint as the guidance counselor at Fishburne three years ago.

Blackburn hopes to transfer from Potomac State to James Madison with an eye toward continuing his soccer career in Division I.

The teen has starred in several sports at Fishburne – baseball, wrestling, where he has been an all-state performer, and football, where he broke the school record with a 49-yard field goal in 2012.

“We’re all so proud of Michael. And we’re proud that Fishburne has been the place that he has found the most success as a student and an athlete. We’re going to miss him. I know I am. He’s just a tremendous young man,” Greene said.

“He’s really grown up a lot and taken on a lot of responsibility. It helps that he has a stable environment. And now maybe he sees a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s nice to see things working out for him,” said Miller-Blackburn.

Blackburn, for his part, is focused on the future.

“I’ve been working hard, and it’s paid off. I’m very happy to be going to college,” Blackburn said. “Fishburne Military School was a very important step in the process for me. I learned discipline, and I learned what it means to be a leader. I’m ready for the next level of school and the next level of soccer.”

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