This article can be found in the Winter 2016 edition of the Alumni Magazine.

July 1, 2016

Like the class on immigrants he took while earning a bachelor’s in social work at USF. “I fell in love with it, and it was just an elective. I thought, time for me to give social work a try,” he said.

After graduating in 2008, the same thing happened with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana. Thinking he’d just give it a try for a couple of years, he met his “little,” Jaylin, when the boy was in early grade school. Jaylin’s now a high school junior, and Blakey has been named the organization’s Big Brother of the Year.

“Big” is the operative work for Blakey in more ways than one. Recruited by USF from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis to play defensive tackle for the Cougars, he helped the team to three national championship finals.

While his musculature is massive, the muscle in the middle of his chest—we’re talking heart, here—is even bigger. “Jaylin was up to my waist when we met, and now he’s six foot two. Now he tries to tower over me. I say we’re not going there,” Blakey says with a grin. “I knew immediately we would ‘get’ each other. After year two, I knew it would be long lasting. We connected as nerds who play video games—we’re still competitive.”

Clowning around, having fun and experiencing life together has bonded them tightly. “When we get together, we just go at it teasing back and forth—it’s my pants or his haircut,” Blakey said. “I’m ‘old’ to him. I say, ‘I just passed 30, dude!’ I’m nobody now that he’s driving. I gave him a car the day he got his driver’s license. When I was getting my license, I didn’t have that, so I said, ‘Let me make it easy on you. Here’s a car.’ He works, and is very mature for his age.”

But while joking sometimes takes center stage, the communication ties to lessons with much greater depth. Now employed with the Indiana Department of Child Services, Adam’s seen firsthand the situations children can face. “He now asks me more personal questions,” Blakey said. “I lived in a bad neighborhood—wanted out—so I worked two or three jobs. My mom and dad pushed me to get an education. Being the first one to do it was huge. They knew it was important, but couldn’t explain it to me. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll just do it.’”

He passes on his life’s lessons, and leads by example. For instance, Adam works to steer Jaylin away from negative temptations by relating his own past and showing Jaylin how he was able to make better decisions. “He’s planning college, and I’m looking for test sites for him for SAT and ACT. I knew Jaylin looked up to me. Since I’ve known him, I’ve graduated a second time, married, done the traditional thing, worked steadily and so forth. I said, ‘I’ll show you how.’ He naturally transitioned into hanging out with my family in my home. I say, ‘You can do this if you surround yourself with successful people.’”

Now a father of three, ages 8, 4 and 6 months, Blakey feels the pain of parents who can’t provide for their children, so he founded the Adam Blakey Holiday Foundation. “I don’t like to see people struggle. It really bothers me,” he said. “I created the foundation unofficially three years ago, so now the state has recognized it and it has a Facebook page. Anyone can search for it there to get involved. We serve anyone within the state with a family in need. We don’t just select a few families. I will drive to that family and we’ll get them the toys. We do it to help parents not able to provide Christmas for their kids. I delivered to 15 last year. I donate turkey from my family’s Indy soul food store. I just do it. I saw my family work together as a group. So up here I developed a core of people who are also my family.”

Blakey’s not one to take himself and his laurels too seriously.

“Getting the Big Brother award shocked me,” he said. “Me? I’m a clown—I joke all the time—I’m only serious when I’m asleep. Me, of all people? I appreciate it. To this day I look on my desk at the picture taken when I received it and say—me?”