Razorback Q & A:
In the Trenches with Jermaine Brooks
At first glance, Jermaine Brooks appears to be a typical defensive tackle. At 6-3 295 pounds he is an imposing presence and he has that scowl that sort of reminds you of that tough kid in elementary school that used to take your lunch money. But as soon as he cracks that million-dollar smile you know that Jermaine is anything but typical. Outgoing and charismatic, Jermaine has a magnetic personality and is always good for a laugh. In fact he acts more like the class clown than the class bully. Many opposing offensive linemen would probably disagree with that thought, as he has consistently bullied, shoved around, and abused everyone that has dared to line up across from him lately. I decided to take that risk, to try to get to know Jermaine Brooks. I just hope he doesn't steal my lunch money.
Nathan Striegler: You guys came up with another huge win this week over MSU. You were in the backfield all day long. How were you consistently able to penetrate the O-line and disrupt so many plays?
Jermaine Brooks: I think it's just because of the schemes. Our coaches called schemes with us moving a lot and its real hard for the offense to pick us up when we're constantly moving. When you sit still it's easy for them to number you off. They don't know whom to focus on. You can't put a hat on everyone. If they all block me, Carlos or Raymond will get the tackle. If they all block Curt, me or Carlos or somebody will get him. One of us is always loose.
NS: What was the attitude of the defense on the last drive?
JB: We can't let them score. Point blank. Let's go out and get the ball back and go home with this victory. We believed that without a doubt.
NS: Describe what your dream game would be like.
JB: A dream game for me would be playing for the National Championship, I drop back and get a pick and run it in for a touchdown in the final seconds to win the game. I would jump up in the crowd to celebrate with my fans.
NS: I feel for the fan that tries to catch you.
NS: What do you think it takes to be a successful defensive tackle?
JB: It takes a lot of heart. You've got to understand that you get a constant pounding from two to three offensive linemen on every snap. You've got to want it and be determined. You can't accept no for an answer when you're down there.
NS: Describe the change that you go through every time you step on the field.
JB: Before the game I'm just normal Jermaine. I like to joke around and talk to my teammates. But at the same time I'm still focused on my schemes and how I'm going to defeat my offensive guy on every down. When I put the helmet on, it's on. I don't joke, I just stay 110% focused and go out there and defeat my man. I get thirsty. I just want to hit somebody. I don't want to get thrown on the ground but when it does happen it makes me even angrier. That's the way I play, off of emotion.
NS: Look into your crystal ball. What do you see in the future for this team and this defense?
JB: I think this team can get a national championship, but its gonna take even more willpower in the off-season. Lets just get together and stay close early. Don't wait to try to figure each other out. Everybody needs to be on the same page from spring ball until we play and stay together no matter what. As far as the defense, I think we can be number one in every category.
NS: Talk about some of your fellow defenders.
JB: We've got some great leaders. We've got Carlos Hall. He's a quiet leader. He leads off of emotion and how he plays. You see him play and everybody else wants to get in and play just as hard as him. We've got Curt Davis. Curt is a very vocal leader. He talks a lot and is nothing but positive. He's always trying to win and he plays an outstanding role in our defense. He's got a big heart and he plays harder than anybody I've ever seen. He's the kind of guy that will go out and put his body on the line for his teammates. Then we've got Raymond House, who's quiet too, but he comes off of the ball and he works hard. Our linebackers are wonderful. All of them. When the d-line isn't doing so hot they get on us and when they aren't doing so hot we get on them. They're phenomenal. There's a challenge between the d-line and the linebackers. We try to say that we're going to get more tackles than them even though they have the advantage of standing up. It makes them work harder and makes us work harder. Our d- backs are phenomenal. They're covering the ball real well. There are very few blown assignments and everybody is listening and not talking back to the coaches. Everybody is respecting everybody out there. We handle our problems together. It's a pretty sight to see. When one person is down we get on him and tell him "come on we gotta get this right." Everybody is enjoying themselves.
NS: What is going through your mind when you plow through your man, get in the backfield, and then flatten the quarterback as the crowd roars in approval?
JB: There are a million things going through my mind. It's like "Man, I beat my man, and I got back there and made a great play." But the main thing I do is say thanks. My teammates are patting me on the back but I'm patting them right back because without them I can't do anything. Especially without that stud Jermaine Petty Behind me. I just want to celebrate with my teammates.
NS: How have coach Allen and coach Thompson helped this defense?
JB: Coach Allen is a great coach. He's very smart and he's always trying to teach you different moves and techniques. He teaches us how to be playmakers. He loves us and is always telling us positive things or getting on to us when we need it. Coach Thompson is great. He's a wonderful guy and he's got an excellent scheme for us every week. He understands us. He is positive and let's us have fun. This whole staff is real good.
NS: After beginning your career as a defensive end, you were moved and have now settled in at defensive tackle. Which position do you prefer?
JB: I love playing d-tackle. It's exciting to see two guys lined up on you. It's a natural adrenaline rush and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I think I've found my true home inside because I like to get physical and I like the grabbing and the man on man trying to see who is the strongest one.
NS: Arkansas opponents have obviously had a lot of trouble with Matt Jones. What are you impressions of him?
JB: He's a wonderful player. I take my hat off to him. He's got a big heart and is a nice fellow too. He's not cocky and he stays real mellow. The guy is unbelievable. He's faster than everyone thinks he is and he wants to win. He wants to play hard.
NS: When you first planned to visit Arkansas, what did you expect?
JB: Honestly, I got a lot of bad vibes from my friends who tried to say it was racist. But they were wrong. I like this place a lot. It teaches you how to grow as a man.
NS: What made you want to be a Razorback?
JB: When I came down here I just had a feeling. It felt like home to me. I followed my heart and my mom's advice. She has a big influence on my brothers and me. She always said "go where your heart takes you," and this is where it took me. It's a great place and I love being here. A Razorback is something different. A lot of other school mascots are copycats but this is different.
NS: What do you want to accomplish?
JB: Short term, I want to be a number one citizen, first of all. As far as football I want to be a first team All-American. In the long term, I want to be a successful person, goodhearted, never cocky, and always willing to help someone else, especially those who are less fortunate than me.
NS: If you weren't a football player, what would you want to do with your life?
JB: It would have to be something with people, because I'm a good people-person. I'm a good salesman. I'd probably be going to school and still getting my degree in education. In the end I'd probably want to be a principal. I believe that I can always make someone else's life better.
NS: I'd be pretty scared to be sent to your office.
JB: Nah, I'd be cool.
NS: LSU presents another huge challenge on Friday. What is it going to take to come away with the win?
JB: Everybody sticking together, doing their job, with nobody coming out flat. Some of us are going to have to step it up a notch. We've got to play hard and together, and not worry about the score or the clock.
NS: What sports movie would you watch before the game to get fired up?
JB: Rudy. It's such a good movie. The kid went from something to nothing and got a tackle on his final play. That was special. It's an emotional movie and it makes the best of us cry.
NS: I've been wondering about this for some time and I though I should ask you, because you seem to be an authority on the subject. Does California know how to party?
JB: You know us California boys know how to party. We bring the party. We party hard when it's time to. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to show ya'll how to party after it's all said and done.
NS: Thanks Jermaine. Good luck this week.
JB: I appreciate that.