Spring Q&A: Keelon Brookins

Spending the spring rehabilitating another torn ACL, true freshman Keelon Brookins is learning a brand new position, a new coaching staff and a new way of doing things with Wisconsin.

Talk about your rehabilitation from ACL surgery on your right knee, which was one of the reasons you wanted to enroll early. How has that been going for you since you arrived on campus?

Keelon Brookins: It's going well. It's going a lot better than it was at home. I have a great athletic training staff that is working with me on it. I've seen myself progress every week. It builds my self esteem. I am not practicing, but I see practices out on the sidelines, so I see what's going on and I'm confident in what's going on.

Coach Ben Strickland said part of the reason you tore both ACLs is that you had a narrowing of your canals that caused your ACLs to fray. What did the doctors say when you were having this issue?

Brookins: The doctor didn't know until we opened up my knees and saw my bones were too close together. The ACL kept rubbing against the bones, so it was going to tear sooner or later. I'm glad it tore my senior year of high school rather than I was in college. Now I was able to rehab it and get stronger from it.

What's the advantage of focusing on just the playbook and learning what your position coaches want and not the on-the-field things?

Brookins: I am in the fire, so I either learn or I don't learn. I am being forced to learn, so by being thrown in the fire I am forced to learn by myself and be on top of my game. That way I don't come into the summer with everybody else, slacking around and trying to pick everything up. I'll be able to hit the road and be 100 percent. That way I know I'll be able to run with the first and second stringers because I am prepared.

Does it help that Strickland recruited you and will be heavily involved in coaching you?

Brookins: It helped a lot. We have a close player-coach connection. I can talk to him about anything and he coaches me. Coach (Bill) Busch has been coaching me at safety and I can talk to Coach Busch about a lot of stuff, too, so it's great.

Is it exciting to think that you haven't played a lot of football over your high school career, so on theory you are pretty fresh?

Brookins: Not at all. I played 13 games my whole entire high school career, so it's really important for me to get back on the field. I know when I get back on the field my leg is going to fresh and it's going to be fun to watch.

What has you the most excited about this summer when you get cleared and use what you learned in spring to help you on the field?

Brookins: I can't wait to start playing again but I miss playing football so much. I'm always thinking about and not being able to participate is tough. Knowing that when I return that I am going to have some skills and have a leg up is going to be a blessing in disguise. I am looking forward to the summer to push myself to do what I know I can do. I am just a freshman that talks right now, so I looking forward to talking and playing on the field.

What do you think your opportunity is to play this fall? There are a lot of openings in the secondary, so do you think you have a chance to compete if you keep progressing at this rate?

Brookins: I strongly do believe I have a chance this year. I think my talent and my abilities are going to increase working with division 1 strength coaches and trainers. They are going to help me train and compete at a high level.

How has your upper-body strength improved and how has your conditioning improve just from being here on campus?

Brookins: My upper-body and conditioning has improved a lot just by doing my conditioning. My bench is around 300 pounds. I am focused on starting to running again, so everything is going really well.

How have you and fellow freshman/roommate Sojourn Shelton pushed each other to be better since arriving on campus?

Brookins: When we get out there, we push each other a lot, just like my position group pushes me and his position group pushes him. When we are together, we talk about all the stuff we're learning and bounce things off each other.

I know you never really wavered on your recruitment once Bret Bielema left, so how have you enjoyed getting to know and play for Gary Andersen?

Brookins: He's a player's coach. That's why I wanted to play for him. He's really strong on academics, so that sold my family and sold me. Since I've been on campus, he's been around and been helping me out a lot. He's a good coach with a good background. He's been reaching out to me, making sure I am all right and a good coach.

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