Calhoun's Brooks the new kid on the block
Nov. 16, 2011 at 5:16 a.m.
PORT LAVACA - It was a sweep to the left that let everyone witness what the buzz was about.
Moments after an unfortunate defender was left grasping at air, a video coordinator at Calallen shook his head and mentioned how that kid "won the 100 meters last year."
The 50-yard touchdown in the season opener happened to be up the visitor's sideline, which gave Calhoun fans a glimpse of Daniel Brooks - and the speed that made his arrival in Port Lavaca so anticipated.
In the 10 games since that auspicious debut the senior running back has continued to pick up yardage in bunches. Defensively, his speed and versatility has given the Sandcrabs additional cover in its secondary.
Despite more than 3,500 total yards, scoring 41 touchdowns and a 3A state championship in the 100 meters in his career Brooks might not even be the best athlete in his family, a family that has produced a plethora of football and track athletes for three generations.
"That's been the Brooks family passion forever," said his father, Tony. "We're a family that's very athletically gifted. That's one of those things that we get from above. The sports that we have chosen are football and track and field. Daniel is like I was, he was gifted and with speed and he has a love for it."
His uncles Dennis Jr., Terry and Donny were all college athletes. Cousin Le'Raven Clark is a freshman offensive lineman at Texas Tech. More immediately, Brooks' sister Krysten runs track at UT-Arlington and his father Tony was a three-year letterman for the TCU football team.
Meaning the 17-year-old's humility about his athleticism is not feigned.
"It came from my Dad pushing me and also it came from me," Brooks said. "Your parents, coaches and people will not always be there. You have to have it in yourself to work hard."
"I have always known character is what you do when no one is looking. You have to work hard at all times and not slack off. I have always been taught to work hard on the field, off the field, on the track and off the track."
This is what Brooks has done since he was a seventh grader in Rockdale. His lineage was always going to have people talking, but his actions, specifically his work ethic, is what made him the talk of the town.
That reputation only grew two years later after Daniel broke both bones in his left leg. He doesn't know the specifics. What he recalls was being at the 5-yard line and his team was running up the middle.
As Brooks emerged from the pile he realized something wasn't right, tried to hop on the leg but realized it was likely broken.
The break late in the freshman football season is not what impressed Rockdale coach Jeff Miller. It was rehabilitating the injury quick enough to participate in track the next spring.
With no more than a few races underneath him, Brooks ran in the district meet, dove at the finish line and found a way to qualify for regionals in the 110 hurdles.
"This kid has known what he's wanted to do since he was a young age," Miller said. "There is nothing that was going to get in his way. His parents, grandparents and whole family have done a great job of giving him direction. Being mediocre has never been an option in his family's mind. There is a goal and a plan and he's embraced that."
Even a slight wrinkle has not dented the focus of Brooks.
For more than 15 years his dad worked at the Alcoa plant in Rockdale. However, that facility closed two years ago. When an opportunity opened at the Point Comfort plant for Tony earlier this year he took it. But that meant wife Sharon, Daniel and youngest child Elijah remained in Rockdale for a few months while he worked in Calhoun County.
There was some discussion of remaining in Rockdale for his senior year, but Brooks and his family decided that a year in Port Lavaca would help Daniel adjust from a mental, physical and social standpoint for life in Norman, Okla. and beyond.
A beneficiary was Calhoun football coach Richard Whitaker. All of a sudden he had an embarrassment of riches as Brooks, Joseph Bargas, Brandon Griffith and Jeremy Loya comprised the backfield of Whitaker's triple option attack.
Rockdale used an I-formation, which meant Brooks received the ball far more frequently and was allowed to do his thing. Calhoun's offense required its wingbacks to provide blocking assistance.
Despite fighting off niggling injuries he had 85 carries for 669 yards as a sophomore, as a junior that usage was nearly tripled with 215 carries for 1,696 yards. Through 11 games this season Brooks has just 77 carries; albeit for 1,017 yards.
His father added playing at Calhoun will help his son because many great high school running backs do not know how to block at the collegiate level because that skill was never required at the varsity level.
"The biggest thing for him was to fit into a system that was already established and totally foreign to him when he got here," Whitaker said. "It took him some time to figure those things out, but once he did his blocking has come along."
Well before the Brooks family told Whitaker he was transferring to Calhoun the coach was quite aware how dynamic that kid was when given the ball in space.
"I like to acknowledge it and show people that it's there," Brooks said when asked about his sub-11 second speed. "But you have to be humble about it. A lot of people will say how fast I am. But I don't say 'yeah, I know.' It's just 'thank you''. I am not arrogant about it. I know I am fast. I have to show it instead of talking about it."