Brooks drove 'The Mack Truck' to Clemson

CLEMSON - When Clemson's Dabo Swinney hired Dan Brooks to replace David Blackwell as defensive tackles coach this spring, he knew he was getting a veteran coach who has coached several defensive tackles that have played or are currently playing in the NFL.

Swinney also knew he was getting perhaps one of the stronger recruiters in the southeast as well. But what Swinney, and perhaps many Clemson fans, do not know is that Brooks is already responsible for bringing one the best running backs to Clemson before he even coached the Tigers.

See it was over 30 years ago when Brooks, then the head football coach at Kings Mountain, N.C., was watching some kids play basketball in the gymnasium one day when he noticed this 6-foot, 200-pound kid.

"He could run faster and jump higher than anyone in there, but he shot a basketball like a rock," Brooks recalled. "He would throw it against that board, and bam! So I said ‘who is that guy?' And they told me."

That guy was former Clemson fullback Kevin Mack, who rushed for 1,484 yards and 12 touchdowns in his Clemson career on his way to being the 11th overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 1984 NFL Draft. Nicknamed "Mack Truck', he is still considered one of the greatest fullbacks to have ever played at Clemson University.

"That would be the biggest signing I could ever have if I could get him back up," Brooks smiled. "Man, I tell you what. He was fun to coach."

Mack, a quiet and reserved young man at the time, had never played football until Brooks was able to convince him to come out for football in the fall of 1978 – Mack's junior year.

"I got to talking to him," Brooks said. "He was real shy and lived with his mama. He lived in the worst projects of Kings Mountain, but he was mannerly and all that stuff."

Brooks noticed that Mack's sister played basketball for his wife, who was coaching at the same high school, so he got her working on Mack. Brooks eventually talked Mack into at least coming out for the track team and then later tried to talk him into football.

"He could fly," Brooks recalled. "So I started talking to him about football and he said, ‘my Mama will not let me play.' So I said ‘let me go meet your Mama.'"

But Mack did not want Brooks to do that because he was worried about Brooks' safety if he journeyed into the projects by himself. But there was one day Brooks finally was able to talk Mack into letting him take him home after track practice, and of course he met his mother.

"We sat there and talked and she said ‘I don't want him to get hurt.' So I said ‘I can't promise you that he isn't going to get hurt, but we're going to try and take care of him,'" Brooks said. "She finally came around and she said, ‘well if he wants to.' And right then I looked at him and said ‘it's on you. You heard her. If you want to. Now don't tell me Mama no more.'

"The rest is history."

The rest is history. After that conversation, Mack went on to rush for more than 2,000 yards his senior for Brooks, including one game in which he rushed for 287 yards.

By the middle of his junior year, word started to get out about Mack.

He was bulling over linebackers and safeties and was really making a name for himself with the college scouts. Danny Ford and Clemson was the first school to recruit him and to make sure he was going to be wearing Clemson orange, Ford himself made the trip to Kings Mountain when fall practice opened at the start of his senior season.

"Danny Ford was there. He was at my school on August 1 of that boys' senior year," Brooks said. "He was there by himself. He did not send an assistant. Danny Ford was at my school at the first of that boys' senior year.

"The rules were different then."

Mack was a different back too. After starting just six games his first three years, he busted onto the scene in 1983 to become the best fullback in the country. That season he rushed for 862 yards, while averaging 5.9 yards per carry and scoring 9 touchdowns. His best game was his last in Death Valley as he rushed for a career-high 186 yards and scored 3 touchdowns in the Tigers' 52-27 rout of Maryland.

Mack, who is now the Assistant Director of Player Development for the Browns, was a two-time Pro Bowl selection in 1985 and 1987 for Cleveland. During his rookie season with the Browns in 1985, he rushed for 1,104 yards and 7 touchdowns. Top Stories