Philip Blake could have been a pro 12 months ago.
A native of Toronto, Blake was eligible for the Canadian Football League draft — and as a starting offensive lineman at a school in a BCS conference, would have almost certainly had a guaranteed job for a decade, given the CFL’s rules limiting “import” players whose nationality is not Canadian.
A Canadian with Big 12 experience is a prized commodity there, and Blake would have been set and secure. But he thought there was a chance for something more.
“Basically, it was my coaches telling me I have a great opportunity to play at the next level, the NFL, and we’d like you to come back and play another year,” Blake said. “So I talked to my mom, talked to my family and stayed back another year and played college.”
That meant going back — but facing draft prospects that could have been hindered by his age. Blake turned 26 last November and is older than four Broncos first-team offensive linemen (Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton and Orlando Franklin).
Blake didn’t take up football until his final year of secondary school in Etopichoke, Ont., from which he graduated in 2005.
“Our game were played in, like, the fourth period [of classes],” Blake said. “People would get out of class and walk around and check out the game, or not. You come here and it’s different.”
It would be three more years before he learned how different. Blake detoured to Champlain Regional College in Lennoxville, Que., and kept playing football, continuing to Tyler (Texas) Junior College in 2008. It was there that he hit Baylor’s radar; he started at right tackle a year later.
When J.D. Walton completed his career after the 2009 season, Baylor needed a center.
“The coach (Art Briles) said I am not the tallest player to play tackle,” Blake said. “So he said I have good feet and I’d be a better fit as an interior lineman, so playing center was the best option for me.”
Two years later, it appears as if he’s moving again, to guard. Blake played there in the Senior Bowl and expects to work at left and right guard, while backing up his former Baylor teammate at center.