Brockers grew up at an early age

BY Alex Marvez • April 23, 2012

Once one of the most highly touted defensive line prospects is drafted Thursday night, an NFL team will have a built-in theme for his introductory news conference.

Meet the Brockers.

The star of this family is Michael Brockers. He was a 6-foot-5, 322-pound wrecking ball for Louisiana State last season as only a redshirt sophomore. The 21-year-old Brockers has flashed so much athletic potential to excel as either a 4-3 defensive tackle or 3-4 end that he is considered a first-round lock. Sports Illustrated reported that Brockers took more pre-draft visits to NFL teams — a staggering 16 — than any other player.

“Brockers is special,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who projects him as a Top 12 pick.

Brockers, though, says he isn’t the most special member of his clan. That distinction goes to the woman whose work as a single parent of Michael and his four younger siblings (Jessica, Ashton, Nicholas and Harrisen) helped keep their family strong through difficult circumstances.

Tiffany Brockers even has a nickname that would make Barbara Streisand’s Roz Focker envious: Ms. Beautiful.

“I don’t just call myself that,” Tiffany told on Sunday during a telephone interview. “My friends do because I guess they like what they see — and I agree!”

She then laughed, but there is a serious story behind the moniker’s origin.

“You have to have that confidence in yourself,” Tiffany said. “I heard it enough times that it started becoming a selfish thing for me. I grew up with not a lot of encouragement in the area of self-esteem. When I grew into who I was supposed to be, people started noticing changes aesthetically and would say, ‘Oh you’re so beautiful!’

“Being a single girl, I started to believe it. I’ve even got it tattooed on my arm.”

As it turns out, the nickname is more than skin deep.

Tiffany Brockers did a beautiful job raising her son. Michael doesn’t just come to the NFL without any off-field baggage — which is especially impressive considering the perils of being raised in Southeast Houston’s low-income neighborhoods — but has learned that he posted a near-perfect score on the psychological testing that some teams give draft prospects.

The source said Brockers’ results were basically the opposite of Ndamukong Suh, whose pre-draft score raised red flags despite his impressive on-field credentials at Nebraska. After winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with Detroit, Suh’s 2011 campaign was marred by behavioral issues and traffic-related offenses.

“[Brockers] was outstanding,” the source said. “[The test] registered no weaknesses.”

The groundwork for that was laid by Tiffany Brockers. Now 40 years old, she wasn’t even legal drinking age when she gave birth to Michael. He has no memories of his birth father, who split with Tiffany when Michael was a toddler.

“I don’t really try to reach out to him and he doesn’t really try to reach out to me,” Michael said. “My father figure is my mom all day and all night.”

He isn’t kidding.

As she worked telemarketing jobs at a call center to support her family, Tiffany made sure Michael not only passed his classes but understood that Cs weren’t acceptable in any classes except for math. When she felt Michael needed male nurturing, Tiffany approached his football coaches for help.

Tiffany also needed Michael to grow up quicker than others in his age group. When his grandmother Dorothy couldn’t watch all five kids, Michael often had babysitting responsibilities.

“I usually wanted to go outside and play some ball and hang with my friends,” said Michael, who didn’t begin organized football until the ninth grade. “My mom would be like, ‘No, you’ve got big-brother duty. You’ve got to help me out.’ I knew how to cook, clean and wash clothes by the age of 10 or 11.”

Michael also held a part-time job while in high school. After his mother became concerned about the possibility of Michael falling into a bad crowd while employed at a car detailing shop, he began working at a Pappas Burger restaurant in Houston.

“He was supposed to be the shake man, but he also took out the trash and cleaned the floors,” Tiffany said.

The money that Michael earned wasn’t spent on frivolous purchases. He bought his own school supplies, uniforms and used a bus pass to get around town until getting a driver’s license at age 18.

Michael admits he “hated” the babysitting chores but is appreciative of the discipline installed during his formative years.

“I used to get mad and didn’t understand why she was doing it,” Michael said. “When I got to college and started going through this (pre-draft) experience, I began to think, ‘This is why.’ I have no background trouble and my rap sheet is empty and clean. I thank her for that.”

Michael is set to show his gratitude in a major way. He turned pro after a stellar 2011 season — he notched 54 tackles, including 10 for losses, in 14 starts — to ensure the financial future and safety of his family. That includes Brockers' girlfriend of six years who is pregnant with their first child.

While the Brockers always had a roof over their head, Michael was concerned about the latest Houston-area neighborhood where Tiffany had moved her other four children in an effort to save money for a house purchase. Seeing those surroundings cemented Michael’s resolve to forgo his final two years of college eligibility.

“Where they’re living wasn’t good at all,” he said. “There are drugs around and it’s in a bad area. I didn’t want her to live like that anymore.

“The conversation went really smoothly when I told her everything in detail. I told her I could go back to school whenever I wanted. She was like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re going back to school.’”

Michael is taking his mother and grandmother with him to pre-draft festivities in New York City. He hopes to treat the ladies to a taping of the "Late Show with David Letterman" since Dorothy is such a big fan starting from when Michael watched repeats with her as a kid.

The tears will then flow Thursday night when Brockers has his name called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“I kind of sobbed when I saw the invitation,” Tiffany said. “It’s just amazing. You kind of pray for these types of things. When it actually happens and he’s drafted, it’s going to be amazing.”

As amazing as the real-life script that has brought Brockers to the NFL.

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