The award for freshman athlete of the year in Company E-1of Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets is named after William Pellerin, the father of Blake.
"He basically raised me on A&M tradition," the Houston native recalls. "I've been coming to football games since I was three-years-old, and all that good stuff. I was basically an Aggie from birth."
And as a fish in E-1, Blake won the award with his dad's name on it. It sits right outside his dorm room, one which has to be in order at all times.
"All my hats have to be perfectly centered," Pellerin explained as he showed off a neat and orderly closet. "They have to be flush with the edge right here. Your sweats have to be lined up correctly."
Internet and computer use is also limited for the youngest of cadets. "As a fish in the Corps, you get to use a computer to do your schoolwork, but if upperclassmen catch you not doing your schoolwork, they'll probably be yelling at you," Pellerin said.
But he's also got a special item of relaxation: an older, padded chair. "Normally as a fish, you don't get many comfortable chairs in your room, but this one was pass-down from my upperclassman," Pellerin said.
Of course, from freshmen to seniors, each cadet does have a bed. Now, though, they're raised. "Before this year, the beds used to be on the ground," Pellerin explained. "Now, we get to climb up into them. We have to keep them made everyday."
Tongue-in-cheek, Pellerin calls the Corps life "luxurious."
If you're a freshman in the Corps, it might be fair to say your best years are ahead of you. So while Pellerin's father's description of his time in the Corps was rosy, it didn't immediately resonate with Blake.
"He told me about it, and that it was the most fun you've ever had in your life," Blake said. When I got there, it wasn't. I was like, 'What's going on?'"
Indeed, freshmen in the Corps are treated differently. Those who have made it through will tell you that it's for a reason: to toughen the newest cadets, to teach them the ways of the Corps, to teach them to strive for perfection. Most freshmen don't truly understand why it happens this way until their first year ends, but many have some sort of an idea as to why.
"When it comes down to it, you have to work hard and put out for your buddies and put out for yourself and get through it together," Pellerin said.
The Corps life isn't an easy one. It's certainly a busy one. But misconceptions can arise from the above belief.
"It's common for people to think that the Corps is a whole lifestyle and you can't do anything else besides the Corps," said Pellerin, "but if you wanted to do something else, other activities, other sports, you can do it. You just have to make it happen."
And Pellerin has proved that over the course of his first year. Rugby has been a passion of his for years. While he played football and wrestled in high school, his rugby play is his pride and joy. But making a commitment to both was cause for some questions as to whether Pellerin's schedule would be too busy at A&M for both the Corps and rugby.
"We (Corps leaders, Pellerin's family and others) all got together and talked about possibilities and time constraints and stuff like that, and we figured out that I would have plenty of time if I used my time wisely to do both," Pellerin said.
His grades have remained good despite dedication to his sport. "I actually have to sacrifice my study time at night to go to rugby practice," Pellerin said, "so that's been pretty tough, but I come back and study late, and I try to find time during the day to study. I'm getting through it, so it seems pretty good."
"Pretty good" would be an understatement to describe Pellerin's on-field ability. After years of work and a year's worth of Aggie athletics, he recently spent a month with Team USA Rugby competing in the Under-19 World Championships in Dubai, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Two dozen teams from around the world competed in the event. Unfortunately, the US only managed one draw in their five matches, along with four losses.
Nonetheless, for Pellerin, the experience wasn't all about wins and defeats, but rather, expanding his horizons.
"It was a real tough experience, but I learned a lot and I think it definitely improved my rugby," he said.
There is a comparison to be made between rugby and the Corps. Both can be physically daunting, but are also character and leadership developers.
"In rugby and definitely in the Corps, you have to work together to get stuff done," said Pellerin. "On the rugby field, if there's one superstar, he's not going to amount to much because he'll run, get tackled and that's the end of the play. There's not much you can do on your own."
That same buddy mentality is at the heart of the Corps experience, one which Pellerin is greatly looking forward to as his Corps career continues.
"I'm only going up," he said. "As a fish, that's the lowest you can get, so I'm only going up there, and I'm only getting better at rugby, and I can't wait to see how it turns out."
You can find out more about Blake Pellerin and all the cadets featured in "From the Corps" at the official Corps of Cadets website.
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