Could Daniel Brooks be the next Al Wilson?

Beyond his wealth of physical talent, Jackson Central Merry linebacker Daniel Brooks can, perhaps, best be described as a leader who is seldom outspoken, rarely outplayed and never outworked.

His approach to football is as straightforward as his answers to questions are succinct. There is little wasted motion in his pursuit of the football just as there are few wasted words in his responses. He lets his actions reveal his nature much like he allows his instincts showcase his gridiron gifts.

"He's been a great leader with a lot of leadership abilities," said Central Merry head coach Jim Hardegree. "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."

Even in an average physical frame Brooks would be an asset, but when you house that type of heart and intensity in a 6-3, 230-pound body he becomes an impact player of the first order. Add outstanding speed, strength and athletic ability and you have a complete prospect with unlimited potential.

That potential is augmented by a work ethic that is second to none. Brooks has practically remade himself in the weight room. Take this summer for example: he improved his bench press by 30 pounds from 325 to 355 and knocked nearly half-a-second off his best time in the 40 from a 4.60 to a 4.55.

"I think I improved my running times and stuff," Brooks said in customary understatement. "I improved on my weight lifting. I've done a couple of speed camps and I did a few other camps. I did the University of Tennessee football camp. I did Alabama and I did the Arkansas camp."

Brooks said the camps "went pretty good", but he wasn't willing to go any further in distinguishing the experiences. Brooks did say he is considering Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas as well as Ole Miss and Middle Tennessee. All of those schools stand a good chance of gaining an official visit from Brooks, but no visit is set in stone at this time.

"I haven't really decided about official visits," he said. "I liked Tennessee. I like the sports facilities. I really haven't checked into it much, but that's what I've seen and I liked it. I haven't seen a game there."

Brooks grew up in Charleston, Miss., (located 30 miles south of Oxford) and didn't move to Jackson until he was 16. Consequently, he didn't witnesses the local excitement generated by former Central Merry star linebacker Al Wilson, who started four seasons at Tennessee and was a critical component to the Vols 1998 national championship run.

"I really didn't get into college football until I got up here," he said. "There isn't any linebacker that I've modeled myself after or that I like the best."

Despite his lack of knowledge about Wilson, coach Hardegree says Brooks reminds him a lot of the former high school all-American.

"He's a lot like Al Wilson," said 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 aren't 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."

Brooks isn't as vocal as Wilson, who was noted for his fire brand inspirational speeches, but he does bring intensity to every aspect of his play. Ultimately his objective — winning games and championships — is the same as Wilson's.

"If we get everybody practicing hard everyday I know we can go to the state again." he said. "We've got to get everybody working to the hardest of their abilities. I do everything that I'm supposed to do. I try to be coachable, just give what I've got on the field in practice and in the games. I try to lead by example and I expect others to make the same commitment I do."

Playing inside linebacker in a 4-4 scheme, Brooks recorded 110 tackles last season with five tackles for losses, three sacks and two caused fumbles as the Cougars posted a 9-3 campaign.

"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."

Brooks is glad to lend a hand to the offense, but he prefers playing defense and knows that's where his future lies.

"I like defense better than offense," he said." I just like the sport. I get to take all my anger out on the field."

Hardegree concurs that defense is Brooks' best bet in college, but adds he could play several positions at the next level.

"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."

In addition to his tangible qualifications, Brooks also has a knack for coming up big at crucial moments of key games. Hardegree recalled an instance last season when Brooks was lined up over the guard in a close contest against Memphis Central. At the snap, Brooks stood the guard straight up and drove him into the fullback which stacked up the tailback with the football. Brooks ended up taking all three down for a loss and changed the momentum of the contest.

When asked to recall his best game, Brooks didn't measure his performance by stats but by the amount of effort he put forth in trying to win.

"I think the game against Memphis Overton was one of the best I had," Brooks said. "We were in a bad situation where we almost lost the game. It was the hardest game I played. I don't know how many tackles I made, but I played hard the whole game long. That's what I remember."

Brooks is on course to qualify and plans to manage in a sports-related field in college. He enjoys listening to all kinds of music and talking to girls. And he knows what he's looking for in a school.

"I want to go somewhere close to home with good academics and sports programs, and somewhere that I'm comfortable," he said. "I would like to get early playing time."

South Carolina, Memphis, Ole Miss, LSU, Mississippi State and Louisville are just a few of the schools that have extended scholarship offers. Wherever he goes his high school coach believes Daniel Brooks is a name that will be heard from in the future.

"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."

Brooks next move will undoubtedly be vigilantly monitored by Vol fans who eagerly anticipate the second coming of Al Wilson.

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