Three-star ranking drives FSU safety Terrence Brooks
SEP 13, 2013 10:05a ET
But the recruiting analysts weren't so sure. They had Brooks as a three-star prospect, placing him in a category where he was projected to just as easily miss as hit at the college level.
Brooks never liked that. It's something that drives him each day he steps on a football field, even as a senior that starts on a top-10 team.
And it's something that he sees each time he looks in the mirror. He had "three star" tattooed on his chest.
"It doesn't matter where I came from, how many stars I got, what people think about me or say about me," Brooks said. "I feel like I'm going to go out and prove myself and let my play speak for itself."
Brooks may have been a three-star guy coming out of Dunnellon, Fla., but he is playing like an All-Atlantic Coast Conference safety. He had four tackles in the Seminoles' opener against Pittsburgh but it was a second-quarter interception that helped the Seminoles grab a 28-10 halftime lead en route to a 41-13 victory.
"I felt like in the past I was a little uptight worrying about too many things," Brooks said. "Just went out there and was like, ‘Hey, man, just play ball and get back to playing like you were in high school.' Getting comfortable out there and like you're the best one out there."
Brooks' film study, instincts and the scheme established by new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt were a nearly perfect combination against Pittsburgh. He seemed to be in the position to make plays constantly, and in addition to the interception he nearly had another one but it slipped through his fingers.
"I felt like I just got a little excited," Brooks said. "It looked so good. I was thinking about scoring. I dropped it. That's my fault."
After an opening drive in which Pitt drove 80 yards for a touchdown, Florida State played very good on defense for the next 55 minutes. The Seminoles had the nation's top pass defense in 2012, and they held the Panthers to just 154 passing yards in the air after that first drive.
Next up for No. 9 Florida State (1-0) is a matchup with Nevada (1-1) and Cody Fajardo, the quarterback of the Wolfpack's potent Pistol offense (Fajardo passed for 2,786 yards and ran for 1,121 yards in 2012). It will be an entertaining matchup and an early season test for Florida State's defense.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Brooks has had a knack for being in the right place at the right time through his career. In the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl, with Florida State clinging to a fourth-quarter lead, Brooks stepped in front of a pass from Notre Dame's Tommy Rees and made his first career interception.
It was a clutch play by a sophomore that was seeing his first significant playing time. And Brooks used the momentum to carry him into 2012, where he started all 14 games and led Florida State defensive backs with 52 tackles and added two interceptions. It was more tackles than Xavier Rhodes (who was a first-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings) and Lamarcus Joyner (an All-ACC player).
But there is a feeling among Florida State players that Brooks could contribute even more. When defensive coordinator Mark Stoops left to become Kentucky's coach and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher brought in Pruitt from Alabama, the change in defensive scheme has helped bring out the best in Brooks.
"Last year was a more conservative defense," Joyner said. "We always knew the potential that Terrence Brooks had, with this defense being so aggressive he gets to unleash himself. Terrence Brooks is a very physical and aggressive player.
"In the scheme that we have, it's allowing him to show flashes of his capabilities. You've seen flashes of it but you'll see a lot more with the system that we're running."
Contact Bob Ferrante at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bobferrante.