Blake, Nandua gridiron star, credits his mom

EASTERN SHORE POST/MARK MORING Helena Blake stands with sons Nazere, left, and Zymir at a community park near their Onancock home.

BY MARK MORING, Eastern Shore Post —

Being a single mother is hard enough. But when you’re a sports mom, it’s even harder.

Helena Blake knows. She’s lost track of how many miles she’s put on her vehicles over the years taking her boys to practices, games, and special events. Up and down the Shore, including Maryland and Delaware. Across the bay. All the way to Florida and back. Twice.

Plus a full-time job as a caregiver to an ailing family member.

“It’s been very difficult,” says Helena Blake, an Onancock native whose kids range in age from 12 to 26. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Her 15-year-old son Nazere, a football star at Nandua High School, thinks his mother is a hero.

“My mom means everything to me,” he says. “She has made many sacrifices for us. She makes sure we get to where we have to go. She makes sure we have clothes on our backs, food to eat, and that we stay up with our grades. She’s our No. 1, for sure.”

Nazere knows a little something about being No. 1. Last year, as a freshman, he was the Eastern Shore District Player of the Year on both offense and defense, leading the Warriors to the district title.

This fall, he’s piling up more big numbers, averaging 141.7 total yards per game as a running back and wide receiver. The Warriors were 1-2 heading into Thursday night’s game at Westmoreland, which ended too late for inclusion in this edition of the Post.

Blake isn’t particularly big — just 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 179 pounds — but he’s fast, strong, smart, and is a serious student of the game.

Nandua coach Dennis McCall says that in 25 years of coaching — including eight players who’ve gone on to the NFL — he’s never had a player understand the game like Blake.

“He studies film, he’s constantly learning, and he’s just a sophomore,” McCall says. “He’s a tremendous young man. He works very hard in the classroom, and I never have to worry about his grades. Everything he does is 100%.

“I can’t say enough good things about Nazere. I just feel so blessed to have him.”

Blake is a stellar student whose goal is to graduate with honors, earn an academic and/or athletic scholarship to college, and then to play in the NFL. If that last goal doesn’t pan out, he’s got a solid backup plan: To go to medical school and become a doctor.

In many ways, Blake is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Tyreim, who graduated — with honors — from Nandua in 2015.

Tyreim was a three-sport star, captaining the football, basketball, and baseball teams. He made the football team at Old Dominion as a walk-on, and more recently, he played for the semipro Eastern Shore Kings in the XEFL.

After growing up without a father in the picture, Tyreim has tried to fill that role for his younger brother. “I was just a big brother for a while,” he says. “But the older I got, the more I realized what I had been missing. So I’ve tried to be more like a mentor or father figure.

“I’m very proud of Nazere. I want to help him get to that next level.”

Nazere, who also plays basketball and plans to run track in the spring, says he learned a lot from watching Tyreim over the years. “Watching him made me want to play like him,” Nazere says.

Helena Blake has two other children — 24-year-old Jenaya, who lives in Maryland, and 12-year-old Zymir, who is showing promise in his favorite sport, basketball.

She speaks with pride of her children.

“To have good kids has made my life easier,” she says. “To see the smiles on their faces makes all the hard work and sacrifice worth it.”

As Helena says these words, Nazere is sitting nearby. And he’s smiling.

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