When Auburn University held its pro day in early March, Tigers wide receiver Emory Blake brought in his own quarterback: Jeff Blake, his father and a veteran of 13 NFL seasons.
“He’s the best quarterback I know,’’ Emory said last weekend after wrapping up workouts at the Rams rookie minicamp in Earth City. “He throws the perfect ball, the most catchable pass I’ve ever caught.
“We didn’t have much time to set it up. He basically had enough time to get his old bones going when it was time for me to start running patterns. It’s something we’ve done together countless times and I thought it really went well.’’
Jeff Blake was a 1995 Pro Bowl selection who threw for 21,711 yards and 134 touchdowns in a career that included stints with seven NFL teams, highlighted by six-year run with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I was born when my dad was in college (at East Carolina), so until age 14 I got a chance to watch my dad play pro football and I have great memories of that,’’ said Emory, a 6-foot, 196-pounder who signed a free-agent contract with the Rams after the NFL draft last month. “I remember going to training camp, watching him practice at the NFL complex and getting a chance to catch passes not only from him but from the other quarterbacks. It was a fun experience.’’
Emory, 21, continued: “My dad never pushed me into football, but it was something I always wanted to do myself and he supported that. I always wanted to get to this point and I thank God I’m here now.’’
Blake is one of three Auburn players signed as free agents by the Rams, joining linebacker Daren Bates and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen.
Trent Fisher, son of Rams coach Jeff Fisher, is a junior safety with the Tigers.
“I guess there’s a chance coach Fisher saw us play more than some other NFL coaches, but I honestly don’t know if that was a factor or not in us being here,’’ Blake said. “And as far as being judged as the son of an NFL player, it goes with the territory. To me, those are good things because they’ve helped open the door for this opportunity.’’
Blake starred as a high school player in Austin, Texas. As a senior, he hauled in 64 passes for 936 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 643 yards and three scores. Current Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was one of the first to recruit Blake.
“Coach Malzahn recruited me when he was at Tulsa; he got the opportunity (as offensive coordinator) at Auburn and called me,’’ Blake recalled. “I really didn’t even want to visit, but I ended up going on a visit, liked it and ended up going to school there.’’
Blake enjoyed a stellar career with the Tigers, finishing third on the school’s career list for 100-yard receiving games (eight) and fifth in career receptions (128), receiving yards (2,022) and touchdowns (16).
As a sophomore in 2010, with Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton at quarterback for Auburn, Blake emerged with 33 catches for 554 yards and a team-best eight touchdowns for a national championship squad.
He and Newton teamed for the longest pass play in Auburn history — a 94-yard catch and run against Louisiana-Monroe. Blake also showed some big-game ability with touchdown catches against South Carolina in the SEC championship game and against Oregon in the BCS title game.
He led Auburn in receiving the last two years, hauling in 36 passes for 613 yards and seven scores for an 8-5 squad in 2011 and finishing with 50 catches for 789 yards and three touchdowns last fall as the Tigers struggled through a 3-9 season.
“It was a little frustrating, but there’s only so much you can do,’’ Blake said. “I tried to do my part, to keep playing hard for my team. Even though we struggled, I still felt I had a solid season, not the best season, not the season I wanted to have, but still a solid season.’’
Blake admitted being disappointed about being passed over in the draft but said he is excited about the possibilities and challenges in St. Louis, where he competed this weekend alongside No. 1 draft pick Tavon Austin and third-rounder Stedman Bailey.
“They’re great players and outstanding athletes,’’ said Blake, who ran a 4.61 40 on his pro day. “I’m not a burner, but you don’t have to be a burner to be a great receiver. I’m a playmaker. I have reliable hands and work hard at running good routes. I feel like I’ve performed well so far. I feel like I did well in one-on-ones. Hopefully I’ve been able to turn some of the coaches’ heads.’’