By Krista Pirtle
Most of the attention this season has been on the athletes who move the football up the field.
What people forget is who officially starts out with the ball, senior center Philip Blake.
“I don’t get the ball unless Philip Blake snaps me the ball,” junior quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “If he doesn’t feel like snapping me the ball, we’re just not going play offense. If those guys aren’t up there, taking care of business, then we don’t succeed.”
This 6-foot-3, 320-pound anchor for the front line has stepped up to fill the roll of center after starting at right tackle his sophomore season.
After J.D. Walton graduated and was drafted by the Denver Broncos, Blake shifted over to anchor the line at his current position.
“It was good my first year and a little rough,” Blake said. “The defense is a lot closer when you play center than tackle.”
Blake’s hard work to make this adjustment has gotten him some attention on the national level as he is up for the Rimington Trophy.
“It’s good to be notified on the watch list,” Blake said. “So I will just keep playing hard and see if I can try and win it.”
His trip to Waco is longer than most, being a native of Toronto, Ontario.
“The cold sucks but it’s good for a little change,” Blake said. “When I first came here, I was thankful for no more winters, and then I got into the heat and was like oh my gosh please cold weather. Other than that it’s all right.”
The heat was not the only thing standing in the way of success for Blake.
Others were trying to steer him away from the game he loves.
“I never gave up,” Blake said. “I was told to stop playing and do something else. I was like no, I like playing sports. So I guess my persistence helps.”
That persistence not only helps him individually; it also sets the bar high for the guys on his right and his left.
“They are playing physical, playing tough, playing aggressive, playing with passion,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “That’s what we ask. When they click up front, we’re going to click as an offense. They’re everything. They make everything happen.”
Baylor has been seen as a passing-only team with the cannon Griffin III has for arm.
This season the Bears have struck and stunned from the ground, due to the hard work of the front line. Thus far, Baylor has racked up 2,390 total rush yards.
“The thing I love about our offensive line starts with the center position, Philip Blake,” head coach Art Briles said. “He is not a kid, he is not a guy, he is a man. He turned 26 years old the other day. He is a man. We have a man up there touching the ball every time we take a snap. We have a man controlling our huddle with those O-linemen. We have a man dictating the mentality of our football team up front. That is an advantage.”
Griffin III made a deal with his line; every game he isn’t sacked, he makes beignets for his front five.
“He makes beignets so they’re really good,” Blake said. “The coaches don’t like it because there is powdered sugar on it. We always make him come upstairs and cook those on Sundays. They taste pretty good.”
For his last home game in the Baylor green and gold, Blake will be nose to nose against the top defense in the conference, Texas, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium.