Pitt has landed a graduate transfer that was a starting Division I running back in 2017.
Robert Morris and Moon alum Cole Blake will walk-on to Pitt for his final season of eligibility this fall.
Blake started five games for the Colonials in 2017, racking up 305 yards on 82 carries and also catching 12 passes for 44 yards. His 3.7 yards per carry was second on the team.
He missed all of the 2016 season with a knee injury. In 2015 as a sophomore, he was the Colonials’ leading rusher with 749 yards on 170 carries while starting six of the final seven games. He missed most of his freshman season with an ankle injury.
Blake started out as a walk-on at Robert Morris, so he’ll be putting himself in a position he’s pretty familiar with by walking on to the Pitt squad this fall.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Blake said in a telephone interview. “Whether good or bad, every event that’s happened from Robert Morris, or even in high school — everything has prepared me for what’s about to come at Pitt.”
There aren’t exactly a ton of comparison points for how difficult it is to transfer from low-level FCS football all the way to the ACC, but Blake said that he talked to a couple former teammates that have gone down that road.
“I’d had a couple friends from Robert Morris do the same thing,” Blake said. “One of my good friends, Kyle Buss ended up going to to UConn. Another one of my friends, Ben Line, ended up going to Michigan State. When I decided this was going to be the next step I was going to take, I reached out to them to see what are some of the challenges I was going to face.”
One of the big things Blake’s former teammates told him was to not be afraid of rejection. Coaches focusing on high school recruits might not have a lot of time to evaluate a grad transfer. If it’s not a position of need, they might move along without even taking a look.
But for Blake, none of that seemed to be a worry. Pitt was among his first choices because as a kid growing up in Moon, Blake said he couldn’t help but become a Pitt fan. Some of his favorites were Larry Fitzgerald, LeSean McCoy and Darrelle Revis.
“I’ve been a lifetime Pitt fan, so this is a dream come true,” Blake said. “When you see all those guys go there and have successful careers after, I feel like it’s hard to not fall in love with a program like that.”
Blake will join a deep group of running backs at Pitt that includes returning senior co-starters Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison, sophomore A.J. Davis, redshirt freshman Todd Sibley and incoming freshman Mychale Salahuddin along with walk-on redshirt sophomore Kyle Vreen.
With a deep group of scholarship players, Blake’s odds of finding significant playing time seem long, but if his career at Robert Morris is any indication, sometimes the long odds do play out.
“I think I’m more than enough prepared to play at this level,” he said. “I’m just ready to take this next step.’