As college athletics wait and hope for a full-fledged return to competition amid the coronavirus pandemic, there is also the matter of the NCAA moving towards permitting athletes to be compensated for endorsements and promotions. Pending a vote in January, new rules could be in effect by the start of the 2021-22 academic year.
With a sense of how to market himself, Brooks could be a part of the first generation to take advantage of the new opportunities. He can start the process Monday, when the second phase of Tech's voluntary workout program begins. The first phase, started June 15, was open to returning Yellow Jackets athletes living in the Atlanta area. Phase 2 will expand to allow all football and basketball players, along with incoming freshmen on other varsity teams if they live in the Atlanta area.
At Trinity Christian Academy, Brooks was rated a four-star prospect and the No. 253 prospect in the country (247Sports Composite). He is the highest-rated defensive player to enroll at Tech as a freshman since Bruce Jordan-Swilling in 2017.
While the cornerback spot figures to be crowded with a cluster of returnees led by Tre Swilling, Brooks has the physical skills to compete. He chose Tech over offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Florida.
“Great size, great speed, relentless competitor,” Collins said of Brooks in a team-produced signing-day video last December. “Was one of the first guys to commit to us to really set the tone for what we’re building with this recruiting class. Really excited about him.”
Besides the consistent interest shown by Tech coaches, led by offensive-line coach Brent Key, who had first recruited Brooks while at Alabama, “I was thinking life after football,” Brooks said. “I know there’s no market bigger than Atlanta, at least down here in the South.”
Brooks, who will be enrolled in Tech’s business school, thinks he wants to go into real estate, in part because of his belief in himself as a salesman.
“I’m good with people, and I’m real confident in selling things, I guess you could say, or getting you to believe what I say,” Brooks said.
He demonstrated his sales acumen with at least two members of Tech’s signing class. One was quarterback Jeff Sims, an early enrollee also from Jacksonville. Sims had been committed to Florida State since February of his junior year, but began to waffle as the school fired coach Willie Taggart. He withdrew his commitment in December and signed with Tech a week later.
“I was working hard for a couple months trying to get Jeff, all the way up to signing day,” Brooks said.
His partner in trying to flip Sims was the late Bryce Gowdy, who took his life in December, days before the wide receiver was to enroll at Tech. Gowdy, from Deerfield Beach, Fla., was another prospect whom Brooks had influenced toward Tech. The two had known each other through 7-on-7 competitions and then became friends through the recruitment process. They came to Atlanta for the same official-visit weekend last May. Brooks had committed in March, and Gowdy followed in July.
The two communicated frequently and made a plan to both wear No. 7 once at Tech. (NCAA rules permit two teammates to wear the same jersey number so long as they don’t play the same position and aren’t on the field at the same time.)
“Energetic, intelligent and hilarious,” Brooks said of Gowdy. “The dude was totally funny. And curious. He was very curious.”
Brooks, Sims and Gowdy were all four-star prospects, helping drive the 2020 signing class to Tech’s highest rating since the 2009 class.
“He would definitely have been a real good player,” Brooks said of Gowdy. “He’s big. He’s 6-3, but he also weighs, like, 205 pounds and that was just in high school. Being as big as he is and being able to move the way he could move would have separated him from a lot of players.”
As much as Brooks would like to make a name for himself in a Jackets uniform, he said he wants to play in Gowdy’s memory.
“I’m definitely going to make sure that nobody forgets his name as long as I’m there, even when I’m outside of there,” he said.
For a budding branding whiz, it sounds like a worthy challenge.