Georgia Tech defensive tackle Djimon Brooks received a pair of honors for his contributions to the team Friday. In front of his teammates, Brooks, a walk-on, was awarded a scholarship by coach Geoff Collins and also a prized single-digit jersey.
And it wasn’t just any single digit. In trading in No. 86, Brooks will be the first player in Tech history to wear No. 0 following the NCAA’s approval in April for football players to wear that as a jersey number. Collins makes a point of granting single-digit jerseys only to players whom he deems to be great leaders and teammates.
Brooks, a rising senior from Washington County High, played in one game in his first two seasons before playing in all 12 games last season, including four starts.
Collins made the announcement to the team Friday morning at the team’s walk-through session, as seen in a video shared by the team. The jersey number was apparently also a nod to Brooks’ humble beginnings, as he had no FBS or FCS scholarship offers and was a “zero-star” recruit.
Standing in front of the team in the Brock Football Practice Facility as he made the reveal, clutching a gold No. 0 jersey, Collins described Brooks as “one of the consummate leaders, consummate teammates in this program. Zero stars, zero scholarship offers. Came here as a walk-on and earned the number zero and earned a scholarship in this program in this program. Djimon Brooks!”
Last October, Brooks said that he had been recruited by several NAIA schools out of high school and was leaning toward attending Division III Berry College.
“A lot of stuff was just, ‘You’re going to have to walk on if you want to play football,’” Brooks said.
His father, who was a walk-on at Auburn, encouraged him to try playing at Tech.
“He was like, ‘If you want to play and show the coaches that you’re able to play with those (scholarship) guys, you’ve got to practice harder than those guys,’” Brooks said. “‘You can’t be slacking. You’ve got to find ways to put yourself in front of the coaches’ eyes.‘”
He made an impression on Collins and his staff last spring with his effort, which led to a spot in the rotation last season. His 27 tackles were second most among defensive linemen. He was one of a number of walk-ons, including center William Lay, wide receiver Josh Blancato and tight end Dylan Leonard, to earn playing time last season.
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