John Fitzgerald Blake, in his 59th year, "Scored a Victory, with Jesus" on Thursday morning, July 23, 2020 in Dallas, Texas.Keith D. Biglow Funeral Directors, Inc.
On a bright Monday morning on March 6, 1961, in
Rockford, Illinois, a bundle of joy entered the lives of
Dorothy Haley-Blake and James Blake Sr. His life was
marked for greatness when his parents chose to name
him after beloved president John Fitzgerald Kennedy,
and John Fitzgerald Blake would come to embody his
namesake’s courage, charisma, and belief in justice and
equality for everyone.
An Extraordinary Life and Legacy: The way John
lived— in service to God, a man of integrity, an incredible
family man, a legend guided by love. John’s enthusiasm
for life and his love for others was infectious. Throughout
his life, he showed that he possessed a true servant’s
heart. He took the time to pray with anyone who needed
it including strangers, he shared the glorious word of
God, and gave countless gifts anonymously, always more
interested in making people smile and feel loved than he
was in getting credit. As his blessings in life grew, so
did his generosity. He believed in and lived the scripture,
“To whom much is given, much is required.” From the
moment you encountered John, you knew you were in
the presence of greatness. Always wearing a smile that
reflected the love and joy in his heart, he shone with a
light and a presence that was beyond charismatic—it was
magnetic. He was anointed in the way he could make
everyone he encountered feel special, and he used that
God-given talent to serve others daily.
John’s family relocated to Sand Springs, Oklahoma
in 1969, where his mother and father brought up he
and his five siblings, in a loving home. As the second
oldest of his siblings, John was a natural leader. Blessed
with a sharp mind, incredible physical abilities, and an
unstoppable work ethic, John stood out at home and
at school. Whether the subject was sports, cooking, or
dancing, his competitive spirit was always there. He
would spend hours studying dance moves while watching
Soul Train, a true talent once he hit the dance floor, his
facial expressions matched his confident moves as he
floated light on his feet and smooth like butter.
In high school, John was known not only as an outstanding
athlete and student, but as a masterful jokester.
Throughout his life, he began every day thinking about
how he could make people laugh and bring joy to their
lives. His hilarious, catchy, infectious “Booisms” started
long before he got the nickname “Boo.”
However, it was John’s athletic talent and passion that
shaped the direction of his life. Throughout high school,
he was as an exceptional athlete. As a senior he won
countless awards and honors, including MVP of the
Oil Bowl and First Team All-State in football. He was
awarded a scholarship from the University of Oklahoma
under the legendary coach Barry Switzer. At OU, John
continued to excel. Playing the position of nose guard,
he was instrumental in helping the team win two Big
Eight Titles and two Orange Bowls. He was named
team captain his senior year and earned the respect of
coaches, fans, and his teammates for his tenacious play
and infectious positivity.
While at OU, John began working with the defensive line
as a student assistant and earned a national championship
ring. More important, during this time he earned his
bachelor’s degree in public relations and recreation.
This was a perfect fit because his enthusiasm for building
relationships with people made his next move an obvious
John’s first full-time assistant position was at the
University of Tulsa, where he coached the tight ends
and wide receivers. He returned to his alma mater as
the Sooners’ defensive line coach, and then served as
linebacker’s coach. It wasn’t long before John earned a
reputation among his players for being one of the easiest
people to talk to. They all felt that he truly cared about
them. Everybody knew John as a coach who loved and
respected all of his players and brought out the absolute
best in them. He was always positive, genuine, loved
recruiting, and had a passion that you could feel radiating
In 1993, Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson hired John
to join the Dallas Cowboys as defensive line coach. That
year Dallas won Super Bowl XXVII.
For John, the highlight of that season was marrying
the love of his life, Freda Harris. When he saw Freda,
“Celebrating the Life and Honoring the Legacy of...”
John Fitzgerald Blake
it was love at first sight. Using the classic Blake charm,
it didn’t take long for him to steal her heart, and the rest
Life continued to unfold in a way that was almost too
blessed to believe…after winning Super Bowl XXVII
the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII. In 1994, Coach
Switzer became the Cowboys’ head coach and John was
reunited with his mentor.
Still, somehow, life got even sweeter when, in 1996, John
landed his dream job. At just 34 years old, he was named
head football coach of the University of Oklahoma. He
made history as the first African-American coach of
any sport at OU. John went to work recruiting the best
players from all over the U.S. to come to Oklahoma and
help improve the Sooner football program. Known as
one of the most gifted recruiters of all time, during his
three year tenure, Coach Blake brought some of the
best players in the program’s history. Many of John’s
recruits were an integral part of OU’s 2000 National
Despite the accolades and achievements, John acquired
his most cherished title—father— when he and Freda
welcomed Jourdan Fitzgerald Blake into this world.
Even with the demands of being head coach, John made
sure Freda and Jourdan always remained the center of
The years that followed unfolded with one joy and
accomplishment after another. John returned to the
sidelines by becoming the defensive line coach at
Mississippi State University, working with Hall of Fame
Coach Jackie Sherrill. After one season he took a similar
role at Nebraska, he was widely regarded as one of the
best college recruiters in the nation. That skill paid big
dividends during John’s tenure at Nebraska, as he was
credited with being largely responsible for the Huskers
signing the nation’s fifth-ranked class in 2005—
the school’s top-ranked class in the modern
Those very accomplishments led to John and his family
relocating to the University of North Carolina, Chapel
Hill, where he assumed the position of defensive line
coach. Shortly, after leaving North Carolina, he joined
the staff as defensive line coach with the Buffalo Bills
under head coach Rex Ryan.
After taking a break from professional football, John
enjoyed his newfound freedom. He was able to watch with
joy and gratitude, as his son Jourdan played two years at
quarterback for Princeton High School in Princeton, Texas.
Jourdan led the team to its first district championship in
more than 30 years in 2012 and 2013.
Given John’s extraordinary gifts and background in sports,
it was inevitable that school officials would see a need
they felt could only be met by his talents—and equally
inevitable that John would say “yes” to inspiring young
people and being part of the sport he loved. He went from
watching his son play games to a few years later assisting
the Princeton High School football program and working
on staff. At the high school, John was able to do what he
loved best: help others. He took great pride in guiding and
motivating students to fulfill their potential. The young
lives he touched during his time at Princeton High School
will be forever changed for the better.
He went from guiding and coaching at the school to
mentoring young men at their place of worship, One
Community Church in Plano, Texas. Cataloging the lives
John touched would require many more pages. Everyone
who worked with him and learned from him was impacted
by his greatness. To know him was to love him. John
Fitzgerald Blake’s character and work both on and off the
field created a legacy of honor for decades to come.
“A life is not important except in the impact
it has on other lives.”—Jackie Robinson
John is preceded in death by his father James Blake Sr., his
Grandmother Virgia Blake, his Grandfather Lumas Blake,
his Sister-in-law Sonya Blake, his Niece Brianna Blake.
He leaves to cherish his memory: his wife Freda Blake, and
son Jourdan Blake; his mother Dorothy Blake; his sisters
Sandra Lyons (Charles), Cynthia Rentie (Caesar), Sylvia
Blake; brothers Andre Blake, James Blake Jr.; nieces:
Shauntoria lyons, Shalonda Lyons, Shalena Lyons, Shamika
Lyons, Mykah Davis, Kory Lyons Shaleeka Roberts,
Sarah Hamilton Carra Rentie, Chloe Rentie, Ty’rell
Davis, Zion Davis, And Olivia
Davis; nephews: Clarence Pitts
Jr., Sean Pitts, James Adkins,
Dennis Veals, Jayqan Jacob
Scales, Jah’cori Isaac Hammond,
Javonni Hammond, Anthony
Lyons, James Blake 3rd (JT),
Zachary Blake and a host of
other relatives and friends.
A Celebratory Worship Service honoring the life of Coach John Blake will commence on Saturday, August 8, 2020 at High Noon, in the most holy sanctuary of the Friendship West Baptist Church, 2020 West Wheatland Road in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes, III is the gracious host Pastor, with Pastor Caesar Rentie and Pastor Henry Nelson, officiating.
You may visit Coach Blake on Saturday at the Church, beginning at 10:30 AM until 11:45 AM.
ALL persons attending the services are kindly required to wear masks and observe Social Gathering Guidelines, please.
You may also visit Coach Blake on Sunday, from 1:00 PM until 6:00 PM in the All Faiths Chapel of the Keith D. Biglow Funeral Directors, Inc., in Tulsa, Oklahoma and on Monday morning, beginning at 10:00 AM until 11:30 AM. The funeral procession to the Cemetery will depart from the funeral home at 11:45 AM.
Coach Blake will rest in the Green Acres Memorial Gardens, 126th Street North and North Yale Avenue, Skiatook, Oklahoma.