"He's a lot like Al Wilson," said Jackson Central Merry head football coach Jim Hardegree, a 22-year coaching veteran of both college and high school. "I was an assistant here when Al was here. Daniel is bigger than Al. I don't know that he's as quick with those first two steps, but there are many people that are. He's very similar. You'd have a hard time finding anybody as intense as Al Wilson, but Daniel is that way, too. Hopefully, he'll be that type of leader for us on the field and off the field."
At 6-3, 230, with 4.6 speed in the 40, Daniel Brooks is closer to Ahmad Brooks in size than he is to Al Wilson who played safety in high school. However he has the type of ferocity and big-play ability that distinguished Wilson as a high school, college and NFL linebacker.
"He's a big hitter," said coach Hardegree. "When he gets there, they go down. He's very physical. He made 110 tackles last year, five tackles for loss, three sacks and caused two fumbles."
Playing inside linebacker in a multiple 4-4 defensive scheme, Brooks was the driving force behind the Cougars 9-3 campaign which ended with a loss in round two of the Class 5A state playoffs to Memphis Houston.
An advocate of success through hard work, Brooks bench presses 325, squats 450, inclines 265 and cleans 265. Those figures all compare favorably with Ahmad Brooks who benched 330 and cleaned 275 at the end of his senior season at Hylton High School. Ahmad, who tipped the scales at 235, reportedly ran a 4.5 on a track while Daniel runs a 4.6 on grass.
This season Daniel, who runs the 200 meters and throws the shot for Jackson Central Merry, will add offense to his resume in a role that takes advantage of his size, strength, speed and athletic skills.
"He didn't play offense last year but he's going to this season," said Hardegree. "He'll play R-back in our system which is a combination tight end, fullback, wideout. It's very close to an H-back, but in our system it's called R-back."
Hardegree said Brooks is versatile enough to play several positions in college, but his future is on the definitely on the defensive side of the ball.
"I think he'll be an inside linebacker in college, but he's talented enough to play a lot of places," Hardegree said. "He can play outside linebacker, I don't think there's any question about that. If he gets real big he can play rush end. He's definitely got a frame where he can put on more weight."
The Cougars 4-4 alignment took full advantage of Brooks' versatility often placing him in the down position. Wherever Brooks lined up, he found a way to turn in big plays.
"One time against Memphis Central and it's like I said: we're multiple," Hardegree explained. "We lined him down on the guard and he took the guard, fullback and everybody else with him into the backfield. We ended up winning the game 28-0 and that was when the momentum shifted. He makes a lot of big plays."
Brooks is also a hit with the faculty and student body and lends a lot of leadership to any endeavor he undertakes.
"He's a two-year starter," said Hardegree. "He's been a great leader with a lot of leadership abilities. He works also. He's the type of kid that will do anything for anybody. I can't say enough good about him as far as the type of person he is. He's very well respected by the teachers. He's highly regarded and he's a very respectful of other people."
Needing only slight improvement on his core grade point average to become a full qualifier, Hardegree expects Brooks to reach that goal by the end of the fall semester. As things currently stand, Brooks has had a wide variety of scholarship offers, including several from SEC schools.
"He's had several schools come across with offers," said Hardegree. "South Carolina, Memphis, Ole Miss, LSU, Mississippi State, Louisville and I'm sure there will be a lot more. He's going to Tennessee's (summer football) camp and I think he'll go to camp at Mississippi State and Ole Miss."
Although the Vols haven't made an offer to this point, it only appears to be a matter of time before they do. Perhaps that offer will come at camp this summer when UT coaches will have a chance to evaluate Brooks up close and can extend a scholarship offer in person.
"He's heads and tails above most (linebackers) ability wise and he works at it, too," said Hardegree. "Comparing him to a guy like Al Wilson, I think Daniel has the ability to do the same things in college and maybe move on from there. Of course, you've got to have a lot of luck to play at that level, but he has the ability."
How lucky would it be for the Vols to discover the next Al Wilson at Al Wilson's old high school?