NORTHBROOK, Ill.—When it comes to volunteering in the community, Colorado State senior cornerback Bernard Blake sets a standard few can match. It’s a part of who he is, and comes from his heart.
Today Blake was recognized for his generosity by being named a nominee for the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. The team is chosen each year as a partnership between Allstate and the American Football Coaches Association, and the path begins with today’s initial announcement of a record-breaking 182 nominees from all divisions of college football. The program is in its 23rd year recognizing volunteerism and leadership.
Blake, a 6-0, 185-pound senior, has played in 34 career games for the Rams and started 14. He led the team with 12 pass breakups in 2013, and has 16 for his career to go along with one interception, 5.5 tackles for loss (-14) and one forced fumble. While he takes pride in his position as a senior leader who is set to make a big impact in 2014, his greatest personal satisfaction comes from giving of himself to kids in the community, both in Fort Collins and in his hometown of Bastrop, Texas.
“A wise man recently told me that no one owes anything to him for what he does,” Blake said. “He does it simply because someone taught him, so he's teaching the next. It's like you reach one and you teach one.”
Just take one look at his popular Twitter or Instagram feeds and you will quickly see how important it is to Bernard that kids in his community have a mentor they can look up to, and one who looks after them.
“Growing up, I didn't always have much,” Blake said in his Good Works Team nomination submission. “I faced some tough situations and at times felt like throwing in the towel. Outside of my older cousins I didn’t have a lot to look up to. Everything I never had fuels me to get everything I want. My mom always taught us to be proud of what we came from. I was fortunate to make it out, so why not pay it forward? I can help someone, and then in return they can eventually do that for someone else. If my grandmother was still here today, that would be something she tried to get me to do. It's a blessing to become a blessing.”
The highlights of Blake’s outreach in the community include:
Ø Blake has served as point-man for his team’s “adoption” of 9-year-old Jack Miller, who has suffered from brain tumors since the age of three. Miller was paired with the Rams through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, and Blake has been instrumental in maintaining constant communication with Miller by phone and email, and brought a group of teammates to an event in Denver in April 2014 at which Jack was issued his very own Star Rookie trading card from the Upper Deck corporation. Bernard presented Jack with an oversized poster of the card that included signatures of head coach Jim McElwain and several players.
Ø Began in the spring of 2014 to make regular visits to Werner Elementary School in Fort Collins to establish a relationship with the kids, assist with homework, encourage them and guide them in their studies.
Ø This summer Blake has served as a coach for Fort Collins youth football camps, along with teammates, teaching the game to the next generation.
Ø Helped organize his team’s contribution to department-wide youth event called “Ram Jam”
Ø Has been a leader in his team’s outreach to Respite Care, a local Fort Collins organization that provides short-term care for children with developmental disabilities, giving respite to parents and enhancing the quality of life for the entire family. Blake has visited the children of Respite Care both at his team’s practices and away from campus.
Blake doesn’t view any of his outreach as an obligation or a burden, but rather a privilege.
“Fortunately I was able to make it out and conquer the tough situations I came from,” Blake explains. “I know what it takes to make it out and taste a tad bit of success, so anything I can do to help others do so, I will. It will make it easier on them and it humbles me as a person to know that, even when people place me on a pedestal, I remain the same person I was before the attention came.”
For all of his good works both on and off the field, attention is sure to continue to come to Blake. He is one of seven returning starters on the defensive side of the ball for Colorado State in 2014. He and his teammates in the defensive backfield maintain a uniquely tight bond, and feel they have a great deal to prove. If they do, it will go a long way toward helping the Rams achieve their elevated goals just one season after winning a bowl game in a season that changed the trajectory of the CSU program in the second year under head coach Jim McElwain.
The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® has for 23 years served as one of the most coveted and prestigious off-the-field honors in college football. The award recognizes players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among all other student-athletes participating in the sport.
Since its establishment in 1992, the award has existed to pay tribute to the "good" in college football that extends beyond the wins and the losses. While balancing academics and athletics, this select group of student-athletes nominated by their respective colleges and universities has committed their limited free time to having a lasting impact on their communities.
“Year after year, the ‘good works’ associated with this impressive group of student-athletes continue to inspire and raise the bar for future nominees,” said Jim Haskins, president of Allstate’s West Territory and a member of the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® voting panel. “Allstate is proud to be a part of an award that recognizes the importance of giving back to the communities where we live, work and cheer on game day.”