Legacy Stories

Jeffrey Blake

Jeffrey Blake was a competitive athlete who excelled at many sports, especially football. His skill allowed him to play collegiately, first at San Diego State and then at the University of New Mexico. He loved goofing around with friends and he lived for pranking his younger sister, whom he protected fiercely. Jeffrey passed away unexpectedly in November 2022, one day after his 22nd birthday. His brain was later donated for research to the UNITE Brain Bank. Though researchers did not find evidence of CTE, they did find changes to the white matter of his brain, consistent with a history of trauma. Below, Jeffrey’s family shares his Legacy Story to honor his life.

Jeffrey Blake twoup Concussion Legacy Foundation

By the Blake family

Fear. True Fear. 

It was 6:36 p.m. on Monday, November 7.

I was finishing up a meeting in my office and noticed I had received two calls from the same unknown number. But then a text came through.

“If this is Ms. Laura Lee Blake, would you call me please?” And then there was a detective’s name, from the Sandy Springs Police, with his phone number.

I somehow instantly knew this involved Jeffrey.   

There is no greater fear or despair for a mother than hearing that her child is gone. Her firstborn son. An incredibly talented, highly competitive, never afraid of a challenge, always ready for the next big game, son — her Jeffrey.

On Nov. 7, the day after his 22nd birthday, it happened. My precious Jeffrey was gone.

I had to face my greatest fear, the deepest despair, my unspeakable darkness. 

But I have been gifted with strong faith from my earliest years. I had prayed fiercely over Jeffrey since his before his birth. When I had confirmed I was pregnant at two weeks, he was being knit together inside of me. When all the days ordained for him were written in the book of life before one of them came to be.

Jeffrey Blake graduation Concussion Legacy Foundation

So in my darkest moments, I focused on three truths:

  1. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
  2. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou oh Lord art with me.
  3. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

So today, I can lift my head. I have the courage to share Jeffrey’s story and celebrate his life. His incredible 22 years. His marvelous birthday celebration and what it means for his passing.

It is Jeffrey’s life that speaks, not his death. And oh, what a life it was.

With his handsome good looks and a smile that could light up our mornings, his high intelligence and extraordinary athletic talents mixed with a fierce competitive spirit to always win, his goofy stunts and childish play, and how he was continually seeking to pull crazy pranks on his younger sister Vandela, Jeffrey lived life to the fullest.

Jeffrey was born in Newport Beach, Calif. and grew up in Atlanta. He attended Vanderlyn grade school at first, then Dunwoody Elementary and finally transferred to Greater Atlanta Christian School (GAC) in fifth grade for his junior high and high school years, excelling at both football and basketball. He was known for his hard work on and off the field, gifted athletic talents, and love of cafeteria sandwiches that he would stuff into his backpack at every lunch hour to eat right before a practice.

Jeffrey Blake beach Concussion Legacy Foundation

Jeffrey connected with everyone, and he was well-known. I recall, even as a young child, we would go to the local Target store in Dunwoody. As we would walk up and down the aisles, people would come up to us and say, “Hi, Jeffrey.” They’d then ask if I was Jeffrey’s mom. I would chuckle to myself and proudly state I was indeed.

Jeffrey won many athletic awards and honors and was recruited by more than 25 Division I universities, including 15 P5 teams, to play football. With a desire to return home to Southern California, he chose San Diego State University (SDSU) for his first year of college football. Following an on-again, off-again, uncertain football season during his second year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeffrey then transferred to the University of New Mexico (UNM) to play for an esteemed former SDSU Coach, Rocky Long. Jeffrey left UNM in January 2022, with plans to pursue opportunities in arena and semi-professional football.

Jeffrey Blake family Concussion Legacy Foundation

There were so many blessings. And through it all, as I watched Jeffrey’s life, I learned three important lessons:

The first was to always be thankful.

As a young boy, before he would leave for school, his grandpa Cornelius (whom we lovingly called Case) would often grab him in the morning and sternly say, “Jeffrey, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Jeffrey would look up at his grandpa with big eyes, nod his little head, and run off to grab his backpack for school.

I remember when Jeffrey got his first tattoo. I was so angry that he would mar his perfect body with a tattoo and even more disturbed that his sister Vandela had accompanied him on this misadventure.  

When he got home, Jeffrey took off his shirt, and showed it to me. On the underside of his left arm, in very large letters, he had inscripted in large letters ’Forever Grateful.’ And he was. It was his life and his legacy.

Jeffrey Blake moose Concussion Legacy Foundation

The second lesson Jeffrey taught us was that love is stubborn.

Now, many are familiar with the passage from 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…” and the passage continues.

But for Jeffrey, love was stubborn. He would not let go. He would fight for it and defend it and protect it. When he loved you, it was a decision that could not be broken:

  • I am reminded of how he highly respected and loved his coaches and sought to excel to make them proud.  
  • He loved and bonded with his teammates, supporting them on and off the field.  
  • He fiercely loved his gang of neighborhood boys. They would get in so much trouble. But they would link arms, stand strong, and no one could harm them.  
  • But family was Jeffrey’s first love, and he would do anything to protect them. He loved his crazy fun cousins across the street and all the shenanigans they would get into. 
  • But he especially adored his sister Vandela, and from the earliest years would find new and creative ways to prank her daily, pull silly stunts, and create complete chaos, all to annoy her and/or just get her to scream.

I remember one neighborhood game of tag and tackle. A larger neighborhood boy had somehow caught up to little, fast Vandela, knocked her to the ground, and was ready to pin her hands over her head — when Jeffrey came flying around the corner, tackled this larger boy, and loudly declared no one picks on my sister, except for me.

Jeffrey Blake sister Concussion Legacy Foundation

The third lesson was to celebrate often and celebrate always.

Even from a young age, Jeffrey was always celebrating something. I remember walking into the kitchen and seeing he had taken a slice of frozen pizza, put it on our best china, and filled one of our most expensive crystal wine glasses with Sprite because he had just won the basketball game.

And that is true of everything. Jeffrey did not want to wait or keep something for a later celebration.

Even the night before his 22nd birthday, I had given him a new pair of black dress shoes to wear to church the next morning. Jeffrey tried them on, loved them, and went to practice basketball in the yard in a T-shirt, basketball shorts, and new dress shoes, because he did not want to wait to wear them.

I share these with you because it also defined his 22nd birthday.

His Sunday birthday was marvelously blessed with a strong worship and church service. The very last song of the incredible service was “My Jesus.” We were sitting in a small section on one side of the church, standing and praising along with the lyrics.

Jeffrey had many dreams that didn’t pan out. He had made some wrong turns, some wrong decisions, and there were some unfortunate circumstances that intervened. But this second verse was for Jeffrey:

"Who can wipe away the tears
From broken dreams and wasted years
And tell the past to disappear? Oh
Let me tell you 'bout my Jesus
And all the wrong turns that you would
Go and undo if you could
Who can work it all for your good
Let me tell you about my Jesus
He makes a way where there ain't no way
Rises up from an empty grave
Ain't no sinner that He can't save
Let me tell you 'bout my Jesus
His love is strong and His grace is free
And the good news is I know that He
Can do for you what He's done for me
Let me tell you 'bout my Jesus
And let my Jesus change your life


As we were leaving the church, we started talking to a family walking out with us. I told them it was Jeffrey’s birthday. The grandmother stopped and said a prayer to bless him: 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. 

We went to run some errands, including picking up a birthday cake and candles. Jeffrey asked if he could go to Barnes & Noble down the street to buy a book. For those of you who know him, that was quite a surprise. Jeffrey did not read novels.

But he purchased his very own Bible as a special birthday gift and explained that he wanted his own.

We celebrated that night with spicy wings and a Corona beer at Taco Mac, alongside his favorite red velvet birthday cake holding 22 little candles with his Nana. He gave her a big hug.

Jeffrey Blake grandma Concussion Legacy Foundation

Less than 24 hours later, he was gone.  

The call from the detective was impossibly difficult. I had to wait at my office while police gathered evidence. Then they came to speak with me for quite some time.  

It finally ended at a little after 9:00 p.m. I went to my car all alone. I broke down. It was dark. It was cold. And I had just received the news that my precious Jeffrey was gone.  

I put the key in the ignition and turned on the car. The first song that played on the radio was “My Jesus” that we had heard at the church service the day before.

And I knew, I knew, I knew in that moment, without a doubt, that this was the Lord’s message to me that He had my Jeffrey. That my Jeffrey was with my Jesus.  And this was His gift to encourage and support me in these days and months until the time that we will be together again.  

What an incredible Savior we have.  

What an incredible gift.

Jeffrey has blessed each of us with so much.  Right now, it would be so appropriate to bless him as he has done in our lives.

A final prayer of blessing over my son:

My beautiful, beautiful Jeffrey. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.  

Rest well, JEFFREY. We will miss you and love you. 

We hold you in our hearts. 

To Him be the glory. 

He owns it all. 

Alleluia and Amen.


You May Also Like

CTE Caregivers

Living with suspected CTE can be difficult, but CTE is not a death sentence and it is important to maintain hope. Find out how.

Living with CTE
Brain Bank Team

Although we cannot yet accurately diagnose CTE in living people, a specialist can help treat the symptoms presenting the most challenges.

CTE Treatments

Follow Us


Sign Up For Our Newsletter