Nov. 21, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The chip is gone, but Terrence Brooks isn't about to forget what helped him get here.
Now a senior on the cusp of playing in his final home game as a member of the Florida State football team, Brooks can't help but look back over the course of his collegiate career and smile. The journey, he says, has been a great one -- a trek that started with a point to prove and has the potential to end with a point of exclamation.
A true freshman that had just enrolled at FSU after turning a stellar high-school career in Dunnellon, Fla. into a spot on the roster of the rebuilding `Noles, Brooks came to Tallahassee in 2010 focused on proving any doubters wrong; he saw the recruiting rankings and he followed along online and read the message boards.
Brooks knew he wasn't one of the "big dogs" in Jimbo Fisher's first signing class as Florida State's head coach. Those rights were reserved for five-star defensive players Lamarcus Joyner and Christian Jones, or four-star playmakers Kenny Shaw, Telvin Smith and Christian Green. Even junior-college prospect, Mike Harris, had more external expectations than Brooks, a three-star signee.
Was he good enough to play football for the Seminoles? Of course. But did he feel like he had something extra to prove that he belonged, in comparison to his highly hyped new teammates? Absolutely.
"When you're a freshman, you come in and compare your stars," said Shaw, who, like Brooks, has blossomed into one of FSU's best players. "`Oh, I see who are the all-stars. I see who the coaches like the best and who the guys are with the all the hype. Terrence was like that. He paid attention that Lamarcus [Joyner] was ahead of him in the rankings.
"He wanted to prove that he was just as good from the first day that he got here."
Brooks remembers feeling that way. He remembers knowing that Joyner was considered the nation's No. 1 cornerback recruit according to Rivals.com and that he was rated No. 45. He also remembers feeling confident that despite the rankings discrepancy, he could hang with those "big dogs."
Above all else, though, he remembers when that feeling subsided.
"I don't really think about that anymore; it's not in the back of my mind killing me anymore," he said. "I remember that chip going away when I started to play more. Does the feeling to prove myself still drive me? Yes. But I work hard and the results speak for themselves. I know I am a good player."
That may be an understatement.
As a field general in the nation's best defensive secondary, Brooks has become one of the most consistent safeties in all of college football. Rarely does he make a mistake, and rarely does an opposing offense have the opportunity to exploit him when he's on the field.
Athletic ability and talent aside, his understanding of the game is what defines him as a player. He's smart. If it looks like he knows where an opponent is going to be before they get there, that's because he probably does.
"He reads how wide receivers break so well," Shaw said. "It's like he knows what the receiver is going to do before they do it. It's rare for safeties to want to get involved in the run game, too, but he does that really well."
After spending his first season at FSU as a special teams player and then serving as the team's sixth defensive back as a sophomore in 2011, Brooks found a home as starting free safety a season ago.
In that time frame, he has become one of the Seminoles' most trusted, versatile and important players.
"I feel like I can play with the best of them," Brooks said. "Just having that confidence has helped me get by since I got here. I definitely feel like I have something to prove every time I step on that field because you are only as good as your last game."
Saturday's contest against Idaho will be his last inside Doak Campbell Stadium.
Brooks came to FSU as an unheralded recruit. He'll leave FSU as a soon-to-be NFL player and maybe even a national champion.
"It's crazy to look back and see how fast it went by, but to me, the biggest thing is looking back and seeing how much I have evolved as a player," Brooks said."I still have a lot of work to do left. I feel like I am really good player but I know that I have it me to be a great player and I am working every single day to accomplish that."