Blake Leake did everything he could to get college football programs to notice him over the past year.
During his junior season with the Eastern View football team last fall, Leake made big plays when the Cyclones needed them the most. From his safety spot on defense, he snagged a key interception to help preserve a big road win over Battlefield District rival Courtland during the regular season. In the playoffs, with his team’s season on the line, he hauled in a twice-tipped pass from quarterback Matt Lowry and raced 57 yards for a touchdown with four seconds remaining to propel Eastern View to a miraculous 19-14 victory and a spot in the Region 4B title game.
After the Cyclones’ season ended with a loss to Lake Taylor in the Class 4 state semifinals, Leake stayed active, starring for the basketball team. When that season ended in mid-February, he hit the camp circuit, bench-pressing 255 pounds, squatting 365 and clocking in at 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
When he wasn’t grinding on the field or in the gym, Leake was doing so in the classroom, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and scoring an 1150 on the SAT’s.
All of Leake’s hard work finally culminated over the weekend, when he announced via Twitter his intention to accept a full athletic scholarship to continue his football and academic careers at Bucknell University in 2020.
“Bucknell checks all of the boxes [for me],” Leake said of his decision. “It provides me with an opportunity to continue playing the game I love at a Division I level while getting one of the top educations in the country.”
Located in Lewisburg, Pa., Bucknell is a private liberal arts college with about 3,600 students. The Bison compete in the Division I Patriot League in most sports, including football.
Bucknell’s football team finished 1-10 in 2018 and will have a new head coach this season in Dave Cecchini.
Leake said that Cecchini and his staff “made me feel at home” when he visited the campus in July—a trip that ended with them offering Leake the scholarship. But Leake’s admiration for Bucknell actually started several years prior to that visit.
“The first time I was on their campus was when I was going into eighth grade,” he said. “My brother had an offer to play there, so we went up for a visit and I loved it as soon as I stepped foot on campus. During the most recent visit in the middle of July, I found that I was still in love with the place.”
By selecting Bucknell, Leake spurned a June scholarship offer from VMI, as well as a handful of other potential suitors. In recent months, he had taken visits to Temple, Lehigh and JMU as interest in his talents appeared to be increasing.
Eastern View head coach Greg Hatfield said he believes Leake made the right choice for himself and expressed tremendous pride in his rising senior star.
“I’m just so proud of him,” Hatfield exclaimed.
Leake said that the Bison intend to use him on defense, where the plan is for him to play a hybrid safety/linebacker position. Leake was a first-team all-state selection at both wide receiver and safety last year.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound dynamo has some very specific goals in mind before stepping foot back on Bucknell’s campus a year from now.
“After being two wins away from having a [state championship] ring on our fingers [last season], it made me want it even more,” he said. “So the ultimate goaI is to win a state championship. But mainly, I am focused on being the best person that I can be. My dad always tells me that, in 40 years, nobody will remember what I did on the football field, but they will remember the kind of person I was. Without God, my parents and Coach Hatfield, I would not be the person I am or have this opportunity.”