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2009 Bonesville The Magazine

Monday, August 10, 2009
By Ron Cherubini
 Editor of Bonesville The Magazine


Naysayers Take Note: Blake’s is a Story about Bucking Odds, Trends

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved.

Jeff Blake during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. (Submitted photo)

In 1983, Ed Emory’s ECU Pirates nearly shocked the college football world when they went 8-3 with painfully narrow losses to a trio of top-ranked, high profile Florida schools. Though the team was left out of the bowl season, an identity was born: The Pirates could and would play anyone, anywhere, and stood a good chance to beat those opponents.

Unfortunately, that identity lasted all of a season and took nearly a decade to for the Pirates to establish a new identity among college football’s name-recognized programs.

But, in 1991, the Pirates, indeed, re-announced the program to the football world in the form of an 11-1 season, capped with a stunning bowl victory in the Peach Bowl and a top-10 national ranking.

That re-birth has carried the Pirates since – even through the pain of the John Thompson experiment.

In 1991 and arguably since that championship season, former Pirates quarterback Jeff Blake has served as the involuntary face of the Pirates program. And, really, a marketing professional couldn’t have picked a better symbol of the Pirates’ quest for respect and penchant for finding success against a wave of naysayers than Blake.

Jeff Blake in 2009 (Submitted photo)

Recently, Blake sat down for a spin in Bonesville’s Pirate Time Machine and talked about his path in sports, his time at ECU and his 14-year professional football career. Even today, following a longevity reserved for only a few in the NFL, Blake carries a chip on his shoulder – and rightly so for many reasons.

Among the topics that the former Pirate great talked about were his 14 year career that began as a 6th round draft pick for the New York Jets, hit a glorious highpoint in Cincinnati and then moved along through New Orleans, Phoenix, Minnesota, Baltimore, Philadelphia and finally Chicago. Chief among his reflections on what was a great career that was highlighted by more than 21,000 passing yards and 134 TDs, was the wish that just one of the teams that he played for had made a commitment to him as their quarterback and built a team around him.

Blake, who is currently an executive with Triton Financial, experienced an NFL that still hasn’t quite accepted the black quarterback and though he is very pleased to see players like former Pirate David Garrard manning starting positions in the League, he knows full-well that the percentage of black QBs in the league hasn’t changed much since he was playing.

Blake also spoke about the thrill of being able to experience his son Emory’s stellar high school career and his upcoming career as a highly-touted freshman at Auburn and on his daughter’s desire to make ECU home soon. Blake reflected on his role at Triton Financial and his other business endeavors. And, mostly, Blake elaborated on his path to East Carolina and his affinity to his alma mater.

What has not changed over the years is Blake’s confidence. Confidence in what he knows and does. It was this confidence that was so clearly visible during his playing days at ECU and most notable in 1991. His ability to lift his teammates and to create the reality behind the “I Believe” mantra that came of age that season is still very much evident in Blake today.

It took a 4-year starter, in Garrard, to finally knock Blake from the top of many of the ECU quarterback records and Blake will remind you that he did what he did in two years.

Blake, an ECU Hall of Fame member, is very much on top of East Carolina and its program and expects this year’s team to make big noise.

Check out this year’s Bonesville The Magazine to catch up with former quarterback extraordinaire.


Send an e-mail to Ron Cherubini.

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08/10/2009 12:31:37 AM


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