LYNCHBURG, Va. – Jabari Blake was a forced to be reckoned with as quarterback at Heritage High School. His size was intimidating and his skill was even more impressive. He helped lead Heritage to a Class 3 State Championship his senior year before he went on to Delaware State University. Jabari appeared in a few games but after injuries and limited playing time Jabari recently made a change--transferring to Virginia State.
“I believe it was a great fit,” said Jabari. “I believe in the head coach’s vision and we, the offensive coordinator/receivers coach, all had good natural chemistry. And I went around the campus and I really enjoyed it and saw myself playing there for the next 3 years. In the beginning I was a little homesick at Delaware State so it was a good transition coming back home. Now I’m more than 2 hours, family is closer and a lot more of them can come to my games now. It was really a blessing from God, a tough decision. I just really want to give my glory to God and he found a home for me.”
Speaking of home, the standout quarterback has always had the ultimate wide receiver whenever he needed a little game of catch.
Younger brother Jahee has always been on the other side over Jabari’s passes.
“I’ll never forget state championship game when my brother had a high-low ankle sprain and then he scored a touchdown. He showed me the adversity, grit and how to have that dog and he showed me that and I just followed his steps,” said Jahee.
Steps that started at a young age as both Blake brothers quickly became standout athletes in track, lacrosse and football-- leaving a mark on every program they were ever part of.
“We’re best friends,” Jabari said. “We never fight. Everyone always asks but we always boost each other.”
That love is why Jabari’s path to an historically black university played a huge role in Jahee’s decision to do the same.
“I actually was at a friends game and he said, ‘Hey I want to offer you a full ride.’ I was so excited,” Jahee said. “He” being Eddie George. Former Tennessee Titan great and current head coach at Tennessee State University.
“Ironically I was already a Tennessee Titans fan so I was excite,” Jahee added.
The popularity of HBCU’s has grown with the likes of Eddie George and Deion Sanders taking head coaching gigs at Tennessee State and Jackson State respectively. But the impact it’s making has been felt by generations in the past.
“I learned a lot at HBCU’s.”
Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea graduated from Virginia Union University in Richmond where he’s now a two-time Hall of Famer from his playing days on the gridiron for the Panthers. He was part of the 1973 Panthers team that went undefeated en route to claiming the CIAA Championship.
“HBCU’s are schools that work hard and they teach you the fact you have to work hard to be successful. We take pride in that you’re more than just a number,” Lea said.
It’s that love and care that resonates with the Blake brothers as they take on their next journey, focused on being more than a number, but hoping to produce big numbers on the field and beyond.
“Always bet on yourself and remain confident on your decisions,” Jabari said.
Jahee added, “Stay patient and your time will come. Ignore the outside noise, people will doubt you on the journey but you have to stay goal focused and disciplined because discipline can take you far when motivation runs out.