I debated heavily going to this event since it took place at the cabaret that basically ruined my bachelor party, but then I realized that I could turn the tables and take advantage of them. It was aggravating that nobody knew who Jeff Blake was, even though he was advertised for their event. All the women who worked there, even the ones on the phone, and that sat 5 feet from him met me with a curious, “Who?” Still I made my way up to the Yellow Rose, walked in like I owned the place, located Jeff, got his autograph on a few cards, and walked out like a boss -without dropping a dime.
Jeff Blake is definitely an unsung and underrated quarterback since being drafted by the New York Jets in 1992. A 4th round pick, Blake wasn’t really given a chance by the Jets after setting multiple passing records at ECU. Browning Nagle had been handed the keys to the Jets and with Ken O’Brien being forced out, Blake was an afterthought. In 1993, the team again overlooked him, this time in favor of Boomer Esiason and Nagle. Jeff was cut during 1994, but snatched up by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jeff stepped in and replaced the immobile David Klingler at quarterback, winning all 3 of the Bengals’ games that year. He’d mature in 1995, starting all 16 games under center for the Bengals and earn his only Pro Bowl berth, after throwing 28 TD passes. Although his 1996 season was almost as impressive, with 24 TDs, Blake was left out of the Pro Bowl mix, due to his team’s slow start. The next two seasons were mired in what seemed to be deja vu for Blake, as he’d do battle again with Boomer Esiason, Neil O’Donnell and finally be forced to hand the keys over to Akili Smith. I can imagine how frustrating it was for Jeff, being supplanted at nearly every stop after being a starter for a season. I can also imagine how frustrated Bengals fans were after he gave them so much hope. The pressure probably was also immense, as the idea of a black quarterback was still a foreign one to many franchises. Blake
washed his hands of Cincinnati and signed with the New Orleans
Saints in 2000.
Rejuvenating his career, Blake started the first 11 games and went 7-4, and threw for 2,025 yards and 13 touchdowns, but after breaking his foot, Aaron Brooks beat him out for the job in 2001. Spending virtually all of 2001 on the bench, Jeff became free agent gun for hire in 2002. He’d play for the Ravens, Cardinals, Eagles, and Bears for a season each, retiring after 2006. The closest he came to the Super Bowl was 2004 as a backup for Donovan McNabb. To this day he still wears his NFC Championship ring he earned with the team. I asked what team Blake enjoyed playing for the most, – the Bengals or the Saints, and rather than answer, Blake only flashed the ring. He’s lived in Austin the last 12 years, and his son played at my High School, Austin High. When I told him I had been working out all week to challenge him to a quarterback contest and rotated my arm, he laughed at me.
Overall these are some pretty decent cards that were released in a dead time in my transition as a fan from the Oilers to the Texans. I didn’t collect any cards, but the Fleer 95 and the
Atomic 2001 are two pretty nice issues. Everybody seems to like or hate the Fleer 1995 issue and I seem to be in the minority on this one. I just really like the transition between image and type. There’s just a lot of energy and punch there. The Atomic 2001 is a very nice die cut, and although the blurb on the back is absolutely stupid, talking about Jeff’s ‘atomic arm’ and ‘quantum speed’, the front by far wins with its simplicity and excellent photo.
G/Gs 120/100 Att 3241 Comp 1827 Yds 21711 Pct 56.4 Td 134 Int 99 Rat 78.0
Rush 418 Yds 2027 Avg 4.8 Td 14 Lg 30