FSU’s Terrence Brooks out to prove doubters wrong in NFL

Florida State's Terrence Brooks ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, fastest of all safeties at last month's NFL Combine.

Brian Spurlock

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Terrence Brooks has been nitpicked as a football player. What he could do, and often did very well, was often overlooked by perceived shortcomings.

In high school, he was fast and was able to use that speed to cover receivers and close in on running backs.

After landing at Florida State, Brooks mostly played special teams and was a reserve cornerback his first two seasons. He didn’t make much of a splash until the final game of his sophomore season, when Brooks snagged a pass from Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees in the final moments of the Champs Sports Bowl that gave the Seminoles an 18-14 win.

"I actually told (linebacker) Nigel Bradham and a few other guys that I was going to get the game-winning interception," Brooks said that night. "It’s kind of weird how that worked out."

Looking back, that’s Brooks.

Not much was expected from him in that game. He was only really playing as a corner in Florida State’s dime sets. But with starter Greg Reid injured, Brooks was confident and trusted his instincts as he picked off Rees.

The interception was just the beginning for him. He earned the starting job at free safety in the fall, leading the Seminoles’ defensive backs with 52 tackles and two interceptions. As a senior, he recorded 56 tackles and two more interceptions, helping a unit that led the nation in scoring (12.1 points per game) and passing defense (156.6 yards per game).

Still, there are doubts about Brooks and his NFL prospects. He has just two years of safety experience, and Florida State was often ahead by so much on the scoreboard that Brooks and the other starters didn’t often play in the third quarter of most games. There are also concerns about his ability in man-to-man coverage.

But Brooks surely won over teams at the NFL Combine in February. Smart and personable, Brooks made an impression during individual interviews. And then he went out and ran a 4.42 in the 40, the top time by a safety in the draft.

That time has helped vault Brooks up draft charts. He’s projected as a second-round pick in May.

Brooks worked with EXOS trainer Roy Holmes in Texas the past few months, focusing on speed work, flexibility and improving his skills as the draft approaches. Holmes thinks Brooks’ versatility will help him earn more playing time no matter what the down or distance is in the NFL.

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"Terrence is extremely smooth," said Holmes, a former college safety. "The way that the game is going now, you’re seeing tight ends that are lining up as wide receivers, you’re not seeing fullbacks anymore. You’re seeing more three- and four-wideout sets. Or you’re seeing multiple tight-end sets.

"If a team doesn’t have to substitute, whether that guy can cover a slot or he can cover a tight end … He can function in space, that’s what the new NFL is looking for. I definitely think Terrence will be one of those guys that fits that mold."

Brooks didn’t run at Florida State’s Pro Day but improved his broad jump to 10 feet, 2 inches. He also benched 225 pounds 11 times.

At the end of the day, he smiled as he talked about what he did. One more chance to quiet the doubters and show what he can offer.

"I wanted to come out here and prove that I’m the best safety in this class and I’m not going to stop until I get it." Brooks said. "Definitely coming out here was another opportunity and a blessing to just really go out here and show what I can do."

You can follow Bob Ferrante on Twitter @bobferrante or email him at bobferrante17@gmail.com.