After four years of hard work, it looked like it had all paid off for senior Robert Brooks. A hamstring injury during fall training camp, however, forced the 5-foot-10, 181-pound strong safety to climb back up the depth chart. Brooks, however, persevered through the injury and reclaimed his starting spot by the third game of the season. Instead of letting the emotions of the injury affect his work ethic, he used the setback to his advantage, improving in every and any way possible.
"All of my teammates and the staff just said ‘hang in there and just get better,' so I was on the sideline when I wasn't in [in the first two games] I was taking mental reps and imagining where I would be on this play or that play, trying to come back better than I was," Brooks said. "I tried to limit the emotions because emotions can either be negative or positive and I didn't want the negative aspect so I just tried to focus on getting the job done."
In the four games back since injury, Brooks has helped the UW defense do just that: get the job done. Brooks is a part of a UW defense that ranks first in the nation in both total defense (198.3 yards per game) and in scoring defense (6.5 point per game).
"I am still a fan of college football, so sometimes I don't even believe that I am playing for a college football D-I team right now… and that was always my dream growing up," said Brooks, who has 19 tackles and has forced two fumbles. "It's a reward, but more than that now I have the trust of the other guys and they are counting on me."
For other members of the secondary, it has been a pleasure to have Brooks back in action. Although sophomore safety Johnny White filled in nicely for Brooks in the first two games of the season, the intensity and competitiveness that the Carrollton, Texas, native brings is immeasurable.
"Rob has a motor much like, you remember how Alexis Lewis played," senior cornerback Scott Starks said. "He's always going, never stop, nonstop, always gets to the ball… Just his energy on the field has brought a whole different approach too."
Brooks' non-stop attitude has also helped fellow Texan White adapt to life within the UW football family, and in many senses he has been the sophomore's mentor. As roommates on the road and competitors on the field, the two have shared plenty of time together this season, and as White points out, the senior has helped him in many ways.
"It's a real good thing, I mean when you have someone in front of you that has been there before they can show you the ropes and they have experienced everything," White said. "It helps me when I get thrown into the mix, instead of having to learn things on your own. Sometimes they can tell you about things before hand."
"I try to think about how the older guys did it for me. I don't want to be nagging in a sense, but at the same time I want to let him know, ‘hey you really gotta do this to become a better player,'" Brooks said.
For the two roommates, their competition has fueled each other to work hard and improve in any way possible. Both attest to the fact that they know each other so well that they are able to point out even the littlest mistakes that the other makes, and through that familiarity and competition improve immensely.
"You wouldn't even be able to tell they are competing for the same spot," Starks said. "It's no animosity between the two… They are always trying to make each other better."
"I think [the competition] is a good thing because we compete but we help each other," White said. "Its good to have someone to push you because it makes you better and at the same time we are helping each other so that is a plus too."
Indeed Brooks only has a few more months to help White out before his four-year career at UW comes to a close. He has suffered through some tough times but stuck with it and finally won the starting spot in his last season as a Badger. However, the injury has made him realize even more how special his time working with White and as a Badger in general has meant to him, something he is not ready to give up just yet.
"Especially me being a senior, you just realize kinda that time is running out and how much you will miss it when you leave and how you really want to be out there with the guys that you worked so hard with and that you have developed and learned with," Brooks said. "I really just wanted to get out there and play ball and am glad to have this opportunity one last time."
Brooks taking advantage of final opportunity
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