Emerging from the sharp winds and slight snow of March in Michigan, Blake Countess and myself entered into the lobby of Bo Schembechler Hall. The receptionist to my left smiled, clicked a button and unlocked the next proceeding door. Blake led me through a door and past a sign that says “Players and Coaches Only”. Falling behind Blake, my attention was captured by the various awards, photos, and signs lining the walls. Scanning the hallway, a large figure walked out from a room on the right. Blake introduced me to the once Baltimore Ravens coach, and now his current defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison. The lines around his eyes crinkled as he cracked a smile, and began to tell me that I had picked the best candidate to photograph. After meeting numerous coaches, players, trainers, wandering into Glick field house to watch Roy Roundtree and Denard Robinson practice for the up and coming pro-day, we eventually made our way back to the main lobby.
From there, six players, myself and three coaches wives had accumulated in the lobby, and then piled into two minivans to drive to Harvest Elementary. The players spent the afternoon reading to the kids,and I spent my afternoon documenting the experience, befriending the wives, and listening to Dr. Seuss stories being read aloud.
Back on campus, I joined Blake in the trainer’s facility while he received physical therapy. Leaving me to myself while he changed in the locker room, I sat on a swivel chair in the middle of the room and met each players confused stare with a click of my shutter. Not believing what I had told them, upon returning to the room, they asked Blake why I was there, and the once shy, quiet Blake puffed out his chest and said “She’s doing the day in the life of Blake Countess”. The room burst with questions, laughter and jokes, some asking “Why not me”, “I’m interesting”, “That’s not a real assignment”.
Waking up for his 8:30 a.m. class, following him to the barber shop, watching him and his friends play call of duty for hours, and going to BTB late night to get nachos, my next five days were Blake filled to say the least. A kind, genuine person, Blake has been a photographers dream host. Not only giving me access into his life, he introduced me to each and every person we passed at the football facility, his roommate, his friends, and random people who were just in our vicinity. Tearing his ACL in the first game this past season, I’ve seen Blake continue to have a positive, work hard demeanor this whole year, and the past five days allowed me to understand the motivation of those attitudes. I thoroughly enjoyed glimpsing into his life, recovery, and the character that accompanies both.