In preparing for the 2020 NFL Draft, Maryland defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. is ready to bring his versatile play to the next level. In doing so, he is reflecting on his own journey and thanking his father for helping him along the way.
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound defensive back finished his senior season leading the Big Ten and coming ninth in the country with 5.8 solo tackles per game, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and third-team All-Big Ten honors from the media. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and was noted by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein as being “built like a brick mailbox.”
Making it to the league is a dream that Brooks and all those around him have had since his childhood. Those willing to help him thus far have truly made an impact — the most important being his father, Antoine Sr.
“My dad had been waiting on this for a long time, and that’s every parent’s dream, especially for fathers,” Brooks said on Glenn Clark Radio March 24 of making it to this point in his career. “I’m happy he saw something I didn’t see,” he added.
Brooks’ father worked with him when he was younger, spending important hours building his son into the player he has become today, making sure he was always prepared. Selected by the Washington Post as an honorable mention All-Metro outside linebacker in 1993 for Fairmont Heights High School, Antoine Sr. was able to give his son valuable football knowledge at an early age.
“My dad used to watch film. … He used to actually record us,” Antoine Jr. said. “He helped out a lot, just to watch and see how I made that tackle, how I ran that ball. … He would do a lot of stuff like that.”
Brooks played quarterback and defensive back at DuVal High School, earning second-team All-Metro honors in 2015 despite playing only six games because of a compound ankle fracture. He was a first-team All-Metro performer as a junior in 2014.
“It actually helped a lot, like the route tree, you learn a lot of stuff as a quarterback, so it actually helps two times faster,” Brooks said of transitioning to defensive back full time at Maryland.
Brooks also hopes to make it to the next level in honor of Jordan McNair, his former teammate who died in 2018 two weeks after suffering heatstroke at a team workout. He wants to continue McNair’s legacy; McNair dreamed of going to the NFL himself.
“I miss him. I love him so much. … I honestly can’t wait to wear my NFL jersey and tell him I made it,” Brooks said.
Brooks now looks to help those younger than him the same way his father, teammates and coaches did. After four years at Maryland, he intends to keep supporting head coach Michael Locksley and the Terps in seasons to come.
“If Locksley wants to talk, he can call me anytime. I’m willing to talk to any young cat he need me to talk to or anything. If they’re getting in trouble, or need to just talk about anything, they can just call me,” Brooks said.
He also sees how important it is to show local kids that football dreams can be achieved by staying local and playing for Maryland. That’s Locksley’s goal as well.
“I’m with him 100 percent. … Really, if he can connect with the guys and they get closer, Maryland might do something very, very, very shocking to the world, but you know it’s all about timing, so things are going to work out. All you’ve got to do is be patient,” Brooks said.
Brooks is looking to join a list of players like Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who attended Good Counsel High School, continued his football career at Maryland and eventually made it to the NFL. The local journey could continue if the defensive back were to be chosen by the Baltimore Ravens, though he is ready to play for any team that selects him.
Brooks is now just waiting for his moment to shine in the draft amid an unusual time, staying away from other athletes and public training facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s just a bumpy road that’s going to be clean soon,” Brooks said. “And I’m kind of proud my road was bumpy. Football made me the man I am today. I’m a good man — respectable, responsible, trying to work hard just to get to my dream.”
For more from Brooks, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox