Snapshot: Dorian Brooks

Dorian Brooks is an athletic guard from James Madison who's made the transition from defensive line. The Steelers' priority free agent talked to Dale Lolley for this update.

Following his freshman season at James Madison, Dorian Brooks was asked to make a change.

A 265-pound defensive end/tackle, Brooks was told by the coaching staff felt his future was as an offensive lineman.

For a player who had made a name for himself and earned a scholarship rushing the passer, it was hard to accept.

"I had always seen myself as a defensive lineman," said Brooks. "I liked to rush the passer and I felt I was pretty good at it."

As things turned out, those coaches knew what they were doing.

Thirty-eight starts at guard for James Madison later, Brooks finds himself getting ready for his first NFL training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who signed Brooks as a priority undrafted rookie free agent following the draft.

Some players are bitter after going undrafted. Brooks looked at it as a blessing.

"I got my choice of teams where I could go," said Brooks. "Really, the Steelers weren't a tough choice for me. I knew that they value interior linemen who can move and are athletic."

That description readily fits the 6-2, 306-pound Brooks. His 5.16-second 40 at the NFL combine was the eighth-fastest among offensive linemen, while his 4.66-second 20-yard shuttle time was sixth-best at his position.

The only knock against him? His lack of ideal size, which likely caused him to go undrafted despite his strong effort at the combine.

"When my coaches asked me to move to offensive line, I really couldn't see it," said Brooks. "I mean, I was 265 pounds at the time. I didn't see a future in the offensive line for me. But by the time my junior year started, I was beginning to stand out."

As it turns out, the time he spent chasing quarterbacks helped him as an offensive lineman.

"Absolutely it did," Brooks said. "I was in that position. I can read a guy's stance and such and have an idea about how he's going to try to beat me. I feel like I know what moves they're going to try before they do."

The Steelers worked Brooks at guard during the spring and that will be the position where he'll have to attempt to earn a roster spot. He's been hitting the books hard to learn all he can.

"They've had me a right guard, which is what I played in college," he said. "But I'm learning center, too. If I want to make the team and be active on game day, I've got to be ready to play more than one position. That's the biggest thing that hit me about being here. In college, we really only needed to know what the offensive line assignments were. Here, we have to know the whole offense."

From the sound of things, Brooks already has a pretty good handle on what's being asked of him.

"I spent the time after the football season ended working with the strength and conditioning coaches at James Madison trying to get stronger," Brooks said. "I know I played at the I-AA level, but I played in a good conference. I don't feel overwhelmed by this at all."

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