Valentino Blake’s interception on Friday came against the Steelers, a team he played with for three seasons. But a lot has changed since then, including Blake’s name.
Back when he was starting for Pittsburgh he was known as Antwon Blake, which is his legal first name and the name he played under at UTEP and for his first four NFL seasons. Then, last year when he signed with the Titans, he was asked what he wanted to be called for the team’s media guide.
He told them Valentino, his middle name.
So now he’s Valentino Blake.
“They say I changed it, but technically it’s always been my name,” Blake told Newsday. “That’s something I’ve always been called by my family and friends.”
Blake also goes by the nickname Zilla, which is short for Godzilla. It may seem a strange moniker for a 5-9 cornerback to have, but it was earned in the weight room at college.
“I got to school when I was 17, so when I started developing into a man and got muscles and everything, our strength coach started calling me Godzilla,” Blake said. “They just liked the nickname and it stuck and I’ve been with it ever since.”
He arrived at UTEP, he said, at 160 pounds. He left at 205. These days he’s playing at around 195.
While Blake admitted that his height is a drawback to playing corner in the NFL, his strength has helped him to stay in the league.
“When you play the bigger guys, there are certain things they can leverage against you,” he said. “But that’s when it comes into play having different techniques and playing smart football. It’s like a chess match sometimes. You have to play different guys between the ears.”