Happy to be a Tiger

CLEMSON — In a strange kind of way, Dan Brooks owes David Blackwell a great debt of gratitude.

If Blackwell would not have left Clemson a few weeks back to become the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at South Florida, Brooks would be in Knoxville, Tenn., right now looking over the plans for the University of Tennessee's new practice facility for the golf team, while trying to figure out how they were going to get around all the red tape after workers dug up some Native American artifacts.

"If I would have been there today, I would have probably been in a practice golf facility meeting, and I don't even play that sport," Brooks said.

Instead Brooks was on the practice fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center in Clemson where he was doing what he does best, coaching football and more specifically coaching Clemson's defensive tackles.

"That's what I'm supposed to do," he said. "I'm back in my element."

Brooks, who was officially hired Monday as Clemson's new defensive tackles coach, has spent the last three months working as an administrator for facilities management inside the University of Tennessee's Athletic Department.

"Instead of dealing with football players, I was dealing with architects, engineers, contractors and stuff like that," he said.

Though he was appreciative to Tennessee officials for allowing him to stay on with the school after he didn't land another job following Phillip Fulmer's resignation, Brooks was hoping the right opportunity would come around so he could get back to doing what he loves to do.

He was beginning to think that opportunity had passed him by this year. Being that he was very selective on where he wanted to coach, Brooks said the opportunities were few and very far between.

"I'll be honest. I was in shock," he said. "I have been in coaching 35 years and have never been out. Maybe it is ego or call it whatever you want to, but I never thought I would be out.

"I just love kids and I love coaching and I never even thought about being out of the game. We have never been in that situation as a family so when someone calls and offers you the job you either go or you don't."

Of course, Brooks did not want to take a job just anywhere.

He had grown fond of the South, especially the Southeast so he knew that would limit his opportunities and he felt that was a risk worth taking. It's a risk that worked out for him and Clemson.

"His experience speaks for itself," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "The biggest thing that I can say about Dan Brooks is that he is a winner. He is a winner. He has won everywhere. He has won at Florida, he has won at North Carolina and he has won big at Tennessee.

"He has been on many, many top 10 teams and he is another coach that we have on staff that has been on a national championship team. He has coached a ton of first round players and he is going to bring another wealth of knowledge to our defensive staff."

In his 15 years at Tennessee, the Volunteers ranked in the top 25 in the nation in scoring defense 10 years, in rushing defense 10 seasons and in total defense eight years. That includes last year when they were third in the nation in total defense, 10th in scoring defense and 12th in rushing defense.

Between 1997 and 2001, Tennessee ranked in the top eight in the nation in rushing defense every year and his defensive linemen had a lot to do with that success. Each of the top four season sack totals was achieved during his time at Tennessee, including the 2000 season when the team had an even 50 sacks.

Also, Brooks tutored eight players who were selected in the NFL draft, including first-round draft choices Shaun Ellis (2000), John Henderson (2002), Albert Haynesworth (2002) and Justin Harrell (2007). Haynesworth recently signed a $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins.

"We are excited a guy like him was available and willing to come and join us here at Clemson," Swinney said.

Brooks is glad Clemson wanted him.

"It is a great opportunity for me. I'm just so happy to be coaching football," he said. "It has been a tough three months and that kind of deal, but I'm excited to be here."

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