For any rookie attempting to make the adjustment to the NFL can be a difficult and trying process.
But for a select few, the progression can be made easier by having a certain support system in place.
In the case of Rams receiver
First, the former Auburn Tiger is surrounded by fellow Tigers all over the building. In the rookie class alone, he has tight end
That doesn’t even account for the presence of general manager Les Snead and new operations assistant Barrett Trotter, both of whom are also former Tigers in the building.
“It’s Auburn and St. Louis together,” Blake said. “It’s pretty comfortable right now but you are still fighting for a spot and have to come out here and grind to make a positive impression.”
As though having some former teammates and fellow Auburn alumni around wasn’t enough to help Blake get comfortable, he also has the added bonus of a strong sounding board back home in the form of his father, former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake.
Jeff Blake spent 13 seasons in the NFL and was best known for his exploits airing out deep passes to the likes of Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott as the signal caller in Cincinnati, earning a Pro Bowl berth in 1995.
The elder Blake served as an obvious mentor throughout the pre-draft process, even going so far as to work as the quarterback for Blake at his pro day in early March.
“He’s the best quarterback I know, still to this day,” Blake said. “He throws a perfect ball. It’s never too hard. It’s always with the most touch on the ball you can have for a quarterback so I definitely want him throwing to me when he can. We just kind of went out there and did it. As soon as he was on the field, he throws a perfect ball.”
While his father was a sixth-round pick of the New York Jets in 1992, Blake did not have the good fortune to get drafted this year despite a solid career at Auburn.
Blake finished his four years with the Tigers with 128 catches, 2,022 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, which ranks him fifth in school annals in each category.
Despite that production, Blake went undrafted in last month’s NFL Draft. Soon after, he signed with the Rams.
“I was disappointed when I didn’t but I had a feeling I might not,” Blake said. “It wasn’t too big of a surprise so we just found the best fit for me. It depends on where you land. But it’s OK being able to go out and make your own choice. I just feel really blessed to be here. Now I have to work hard.”
In narrowing down his options for signing, Blake recalled another connection to the Rams that could have had an impact on his destination. Coach Jeff Fisher’s son Trent is a junior safety at Auburn and Fisher tries to watch Auburn when he can.
If nothing else, Fisher at least had some familiarity with Blake from his time spent watching the Tigers.
“Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t,” Blake said. “Maybe Coach Fisher got to see me a little bit more than some other coaches would have been able to. So maybe it did. Like I said, I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
The opportunity Blake speaks of is one that could yield a potential roster spot at receiver though that’s a task that is likely made much more difficult now than it was before the draft.
“Being out here with Tavon and Stedman is great,” Blake said. “They are great athletes and great receivers and I look forward to playing with them. I look at it as a challenge and I am going to do my best to get on the field.”
As it stands, the Rams have
Most teams tend to carry five or six receivers but with tight end
Regardless, Blake is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead of him and what he must do to make the roster. For his part, he believes he brings a skill package that will allow him to make a strong first impression on the coaching staff and is well aware that he needs to make a mark on special teams also.
“I feel like I’m a play maker,” Blake said. “I make plays. I have reliable hands and I run great routes. I feel like there’s a lot of receivers out there that aren’t burners but they still are great receivers. You don’t have to be a burner to be a great receiver.”
Unlike last year when it seemed the Rams’ rookie class was loaded with players with long histories of professional athlete bloodlines – guys like Joe Long (Jake’s brother), T. Bob Hebert (son of former QB Bobby Hebert) and
Not that Blake views that in any sort of negative way. He said he felt fortunate to watch his father play football until he was about 14 and by that time, he already knew that he too wanted to pursue a career in professional football.
The only difference? He wanted to do it as the guy catching the passes rather than throwing them.
“I always knew I wanted to play football,” Blake said. “I never strayed far from it for any other spots. I loved it early on. I always wanted to be a football player.”