Walk-On Already on 2-Deep

Tom Blake, the walk-on transfer from UC Davis, was just 220 pounds out of high school, but he had a goal, and three years later he's 6-4 and 270 pounds and finds himself working with the first string during UCLA's spring practice and probably on his way to a scholarship...

We spoke with UC Davis walk-on transfer Tom Blake Tuesday.

When did you start thinking of transferring to UCLA?

"I'd say after my freshman year, I started gaining weight. I think I was like 250 when my freshman year was over. That was when I kind of planted a seed. I was like, 'All right, if I keep gaining weight at this pace, I can play at another level.' Eventually I got up to 270, where I am now."

Did anyone recruit you out of high school?

"I was only 220. That's pretty undersized for d-end. Oregon State actually recruited me a little to play tight end. But the fact that Davis gave me a chance just based on athleticism and that kind of thing, that was pretty fortunate. I did want to play (at a bigger school) but I knew I wasn't the size for it yet. I knew I had work to do. I kind of wanted to do two years at a school where they would let me be the size I was."

How did the transfer work?

"I had a friend (Steve Urrutia) who did the same thing the year before so he knew the coaches. I was good friends with him at Davis. He put in a  good word for me. I had to get my release, because it wasn't legal for me to talk to any Pac-10 schools. Once I did, I sent them my lifting numbers and my stats from Davis."

This time last year, or this time two years ago, did you expect you would be working with the 1s during spring practice at UCLA?

"No, I didn't. This couldn't be more of a dream come true. Sounds cliche but I always wanted to go to UCLA. My sister went here and I met all of her football friends and I was like, 'If only I could be like them.' Just kept working at it, and then as I got closer, I was like, "Wow, that's a reality, and that's a reality,' and then Drago (Nikola Dragovic) went out with a hamstring pull and I got to go a couple of days with the 1s."

How much do you think you will play this year?

"I think I have a shot at getting some time. You never know for sure. They put me with the 2s and our d-line rotates a lot. They have definitely expressed it to me (that I will be playing). I don't want to jinx anything though."

Do you think you have a shot at getting the starting job?

"I don't like to talk about it. Yeah, of course I have a shot (but) Drago's a really good d-end, and on the other side is Bruce Davis, an All-American. So, you know, I'm happy wherever I am. I'm in a good situation."

You're from Palo Alto. Did you think of going to Stanford?

"You know, I was. My mom worked there but they weren't the football school I wanted to go to. They were playing the 3-4 defense, which uses d-ends that are usually 6'5 300, basically like big d-tackles. So, that probably wouldn't have worked for me. A 220-pound guy out of high school. A walk-on would have been fun there, too, just because of the education, but this is my number one school."

How did you go about gaining so much weight?

"I had to eat right. First I was just thinking protein, protein, protein. That didn't help. Then I learned the secret is just carbs. Eat a lot of carbs. I was working out 3 hours a day at Davis because secretly I knew that I wanted to transfer. That was the only way it was going to be possible. So it was a combination of lifting a ton and eating a ton."

What have the coaches told you you need to work on?

"They said I have the size for it and the intelligence for it, it's just a matter of learning the system that we run here. Our defensive coaches are really smart guys and they know what they're doing and so, you gotta execute everything perfectly for the defense to work, so it's really just minor technique things."


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