Aug 18, 2013
Blake Poole wants to be a farmer and a politician when his football days are over
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Blake Poole heard Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn call his name, but for a moment he wasn't sure how to react. Had he heard wrong?
No, he had not. Poole, a senior defensive back, was one of three walk-ons who had been awarded scholarships.
"I was kind of shocked and in disbelief," Poole said. "When they called my name and I was walking down there, I was real excited. I couldn't help but thank the Lord for all the tough times I've been through."
Poole grew up in the little farming town of Buchanan, Ga. The population is about 1,000, give or take a few. He was a star wide receiver at Haralson County High School and had scholarship offers from Tennessee Tech, Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky. But he didn't qualify academically and went off to North Carolina Tech, a prep school in Charlotte.
"Coming from that small town and going to the big city was like a huge culture shock," Poole said. "I was like in disbelief. That was probably the worst six months of my entire life. The thing about it, being there those six months, God helped me see what was outside my small town. I made it, and I got my scores up."
It was about that time he got a call from Wayne Bolt, who had joined first-year coach Gene Chizik at Auburn and was in charge of walk-ons. Would Poole be interested in walking on at Auburn? His initial response was that he'd rather go just about anywhere but Auburn.
"I couldn't stand Auburn," Poole said. "My daddy used to be a Georgia State Trooper. I'd be on the sideline at Georgia games and in the locker room and that kind of stuff."
But farming was in Poole's blood, and he knew that Auburn's agriculture school was one of the nation's best. He decided to listen.
"I came down for a visit," Poole said. "I loved it."
And so it was that a lifelong Georgia fan became instead a lifelong Auburn man, studying agricultural leadership and political science. He plans to start his own chicken and cattle farm and maybe one day become a politician.
"I love to farm," Poole said. "That is probably what, No. 1, got me here. I came on down here. Coach Bolt said if I worked hard I could earn a scholarship one day."
Poole doesn't talk about the NFL when he talks about his future. He talks about farming and politics. His father, Allen, was a farmer even when he was a State Trooper. He is now the Republican County Commission chairman in Haralson County.
"I'll probably farm some cows and chicken houses," Poole said. "That's what my family did for years. I kind of want to be a farmer and a politician so I can help farmers up there in Washington or somewhere."
The life of a walk-on isn't easy. The football demands are the same as for those with scholarships. But there is no financial reward.
Poole works closely with Auburn horticulture professor Wheeler Foshee.
"I work for Dr. Foshee on campus doing research and things like that," Poole said. "That's pretty awesome. Working and playing football and everything is pretty hard. My job is outside farming. We plant tomatoes and do research on watermelons. Going to workouts, then going to practice, then going to class takes a toll on your body."
Foshee, Poole said, has helped him through the hard times in football and beyond.
"He is my mentor," Poole said. "If it hadn't been for him and my dad, I probably would have gone back home and started chicken farming. Dr. Foshee is always talking about being a man and finishing what you start. Everything is not about football. A lot of guys don't see that until it's too late. I've been blessed and fortunate to be around some great people that add to my life."
When Poole got the word that he, wide receiver Dimitri Reese and running back Chandler Shakespeare, had been awarded scholarships, his first call was to his father.
"He was kind of speechless for the first minute or so," Poole said. "He was just telling me `See, I told you that if you stay focused and put the Lord first you'd be fine.' I called my mom and she just said `Praise Jesus.'"
Poole played some on special teams as a freshman in 2009 and again last season. He hopes to do the same again for the 2013 Tigers. Regardless, he says the experience has been valuable and will continue to pay dividends in his life as he moves on.
"Playing football can open up so many doors for me," Poole said. "I always try to look at the big picture and what is going to benefit me and my future family. I'm a child of God. Everybody has greatness inside them. I'm not going to let anybody steal my joy. Being a walk-on is tough sometimes, but that's life.
"I take my hat off to walk-ons throughout the country. I've been there and done that."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: