December 31st, 2021 | Josh Adelman

This holiday season we are humbled to honor Coach David Blake, US Navy Veteran, as the December Soldiers To Sidelines Coach of the Month. David persevered through incredible adversity and steadfastly pursued a career in coaching. He volunteered and worked tirelessly for years improving his coaching skills to eventually earn his current position with the help of STS.

Coach Blake is currently the Associate Head Coach, Defensive Coordinator, and Linebackers Coach for Bluefield State College. After attending a Soldiers To Sidelines Virtual Football Seminar, he met the new Bluefield State Head Coach, Tony Coaxum. Coach Coaxum was immediately impressed and hired David as Defensive Coordinator. For 6 years prior, David scratched, clawed, and grinded to be in a position to seize this opportunity. David tells us how this all started for him.

“I was a United States Navy Flight Engineer onboard the P-3 Orion. I loved flying for the Navy; it was the total package. There was teamwork, intensity, seeing new places, serving the people of the greatest country in the world, and the honor of wearing that green flight suit to work every day.”

“However, on October 6th, 2014, I was on deployment, waking up around 2 AM to get ready for a mission flight, when I noticed that I had the worst headache of my life. A few minutes later, my roommate found me on the floor having a seizure. After I came to and regained my baring, I sat there for a moment and realized I needed to tell my crew I would not be able to fly with them tonight. I was devastated because I knew that I would never be able to set power, loiter the engines in-flight, or fly from the Flight Engineer’s seat again in the venerable P-3 Orion.”

“After returning home to the United States a few months later, I received final word from Navy medical that I would no longer fly for the US Navy. I was in shock that I would lose my job and not be able to provide for my family. So, I took the initiative to go to the base Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office and ask if they needed anyone to work in Navy legal. To my surprise and theirs’ as well, they did, and within a month, I received orders to go to the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island.”

“It was there that I finally had time away from the flight schedule actually to spend time with my family watching football again. During my time at the Naval Justice School, I had to lean on my faith in Jesus Christ and my family to help me understand that there was something more significant in the future ahead. After school, I received orders to work for the Admiral in charge of the United States Navy Recruiting Command in Millington, Tennessee, located near Memphis.”

“Within a few months of being on the new job in Tennessee, I realized that this job was not for me. After much conversation and prayer with my wife, she recommended that I get into coaching. My initial plan was to volunteer at a local high school, but after a weekend trip to the University of Alabama’s high school coach’s clinic, I knew that something greater was in store.”

“One day after returning from the University of Alabama, I found myself interviewing for an opportunity to join the football coaching staff at the University of Memphis. At the time, I did not realize how blessed I was to coach at the University of Memphis.”

In Coach Blake’s recount of how he entered the coaching ranks, he leaves out some important points. The first point is Coach Blake was still on active duty in the Navy while he was going to high school coaching clinics and applying for coaching jobs. The second point is he decided to ignore the big coaching names at Alabama and make an unassisted introduction to the Director of Football Operations to seek advice. The third point is he then acted on the advice of the Alabama DFO. And the final point is that his coaching position at Memphis was a volunteer Assistant DFO position, which he grinded on for three years. His first paid coaching opportunity after Memphis was $2400 per year at Rhodes College while still active duty. Then he did excellent work in Soldiers To Sidelines with extra engagement, thoughtful homework answers, and diligent participation in our Membership Development Program. All of his hard work earned him the opportunity at Bluefield State College. Based on these points, it is without question that Coach Blake is our Soldiers To Sidelines Soldier Coach of the Month for December 2021.