Donald Brooks is proud of the contributions he’s made to the Trinity High School football team, which will vie for it 23rd state title on Saturday night against Dixie Heights.
He’s carried the Shamrocks’ rushing load on the field, and he’s developed a positive attitude off it that has helped his coaches and teammates know they can trust him.
“I think I’ve contributed to the team by having over 1,000 yards, and as a leader, showing through actions instead of words,” he said. “I have a lot of appreciation and love for my team. It’ll be a season to remember.”
As Trinity (9-5), No. 1 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, prepares for the title game in Bowling Green, Brooks has run for 1,380 yards and 21 touchdowns in 13 games this season – impressive totals given the strength of the Shamrocks’ schedule. He also has caught 38 passes for 336 yards and a score.
Brooks ran for 72 yards and three TDs in the Rocks’ 48-0 rout of Meade County in last week’s state semifinal.
Brooks’ great success as a senior may have never occurred if he’d not remedied some off-field issues at the end of last school year. Some concerns about his attitude and academics nearly got him suspended from the team.
“There was some immaturity my junior year after the season was over,” he said. “Just me not being a typical high school kid and not being focused on the right things. With what I’ve been through, I’ve matured a lot, and I have a different outlook on life. It’s definitely helped me in class and on the field.”
During the spring and summer, coach Bob Beatty was skeptical that Brooks would be able to remain in good standing as a member of the Shamrocks.
“If I were a betting man, I sure wouldn’t have bet over at the boat that he was going to be with us,” said Beatty, who wanted to see Brooks’ “character develop maybe more so than his skills on the football field.”
“There was huge room for improvement before the season started, to the point where he maybe wasn’t going to be with us,” Beatty said. “That is a life-teaching lesson. The game of football is relevant to life.”
Brooks believes he had to win back Beatty’s trust. He gained perspective during a meeting with Beatty and Brooks’ family, and he’s brought a new attitude into his senior year.
Brooks said he’s doing well in the classroom. That’s led to less stress, and that’s led to better football.
“I’m pretty sure people are impressed with the turnaround I’ve made from my junior to my senior year, and I appreciate all the people who stuck it out with me, including Coach Beatty and all the coaches of Trinity football,” Brooks said. “It’s been a great feeling to know that I’ve improved on the field and academically.”
After the season, he’s hoping things work out in recruiting.
Despite being essentially the No. 1 player on the No. 1 team in the state, Brooks’ only college scholarship offer is from NAIA Kentucky Christian.
Brooks said NCAA Division I teams have been waiting to offer until he resolves all questions about his academics. He said Western Kentucky has shown interest, and the Hilltoppers may watch him Saturday when he plays the state final at their home stadium. He plans to visit there next semester.
Brooks attended Louisville’s home victory over Kentucky last week, and the Cardinals have kept in contact.
Marshall has also showed recent interest, and he’d like to visit there.
Junior college or postgraduate prep school are options, too.
“I’m just playing the waiting game, and I have to keep pushing,” he said.
Beatty has been pleased with how Brooks has pushed, and he’s eager to see big things from him on Saturday.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more from Donald Brooks – except that we’re not finished,” Beatty said. “He still hasn’t proven to me that he can finish. He still has one more. Then he will have fulfilled his duties as a person first, a student second and an athlete third at Trinity High School.”
Steve Jones can be reached at (502) 582-7176 and followed on Twitter at @SteveJones_CJ.