Samuel Brooks couldn’t even make it out to Traz Powell Stadium. The linebacker had just torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee three weeks earlier and still couldn’t bear to watch his team play without him when Northwestern took the field for the annual Soul Bowl matchup with Jackson. He waited at home, following along from afar as the Bulls took down their fiercest rival in Miami.
It made Friday particularly important to Brooks. With a playoff berth sewed up for Northwestern and a shoulder injury bugging Brooks, the Bulls mulled holding the senior out for a second consecutive week to get ready for the postseason. Brooks had different plans. As always, Northwestern wrapped up the regular season with its annual game against the Generals, and Brooks demanded to be on the field.
“I was too sick. I missed like two or three games. I couldn’t do it,” Brooks said Friday after helping the Bulls to a victory. “I ain’t played in Soul Bowl last year, so I lived it up tonight.”
Brooks’ final regular-season showcase in Miami was one of his most impressive. A three-star outside linebacker in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Brooks spent the game working as a stand-up edge rusher and helped Northwestern smother Jackson on the way to a 34-10 win. Brooks, who has orally committed to the Miami Hurricanes in March, finished with five tackles for a loss and three sacks despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter of the lopsided win.
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Games like this are why Miami never stopped pursuing Brooks even when his devastating knee injury stopped Brooks from drawing some of the national interest he probably deserved. He led Miami-Dade County in sacks as a sophomore and was on his way to defending his sack crown as a junior before the knee injury cut his season short. Only the Hurricanes and South Carolina Gamecocks stayed persistent enough in their recruitment to receive serious consideration from Brooks when he was ready to make his decision in the winter.
Miami always managed to stand out for a few reasons. Obviously, the Hurricanes are the hometown team, but Mark Richt was also the first coach to reach out to Brooks the day the linebacker injured his knee in a nationally televised game. When he finally got to look at his phone that night, a message from the coach was waiting for him.
For the most part this season, Brooks has proven the knee injury is only a hiccup. Brooks has regularly recorded multisack games and managed to stand out even in a loaded Bulls front seven. His speed hasn’t significantly dropped off, and his pursuit skills are still as good as ever.
More than a year out from surgery, Brooks feels like he’s just about all the way back from the injury. He rarely feels any discomfort in the knee and doesn’t feel like he’s moving slower on the field. He knows his conditioning isn’t quite where it should be, but it should come along the more he plays.
Potentially early enrolling would help, too. As of now, Brooks isn’t sure whether he’ll arrive in Coral Gables in January. He still has two online classes he’d have to finish by early 2019.
“I’m feeling good. My knee’s feeling awesome. I get treatment almost every day,” Brooks said. “I think I’ve gotten stronger, but there’s still a lot of stuff I need to work on, like my conditioning. I’m still a little out of shape. I need to work on that, but I think I’ve gotten a little better.”
Friday night (high)lights:
▪ Thad Franklin, the newest member of Miami’s Class of 2020, went off Friday in Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna’s 35-0 rout of Davie University on Friday. The unranked running back shredded the unbeaten Sharks with a career-high 279 yards on 26 carries, according to the Sun Sentinel. The sophomore also scored a pair of touchdowns.
▪ Several other Hurricanes commits contributed to the Lions’ shutout effort, as well. Cameron Williams made perhaps the most impressive highlight of the game when the senior won a jump ball for an interception on a University swing pass. A three-star defensive end, Williams also logged nine tackles and a sack, according to 247Sports.
▪ Te’Cory Couch made a big play for Chaminade-Madonna, too. The four-star cornerback grabbed an interception of his own and racked up five tackles. The senior also recorded two passes defended.
▪ Bryan Robinson wrapped up the regular season of a highly productive junior year with another 100-yard outing Friday. A four-star wide receiver in the Class of 2020, Robinson caught four passes for 123 yards in Palm Beach Central’s 52-0 blowout of Leonard. The Miami commit finished the regular season with 37 catches for 840 yards and eight touchdowns. He logged three 100-yard games, including two in the final two weeks of the season.
▪ Jason Munoz was back on the field Friday for Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in a 48-6 blowout in Miramar. The three-star defensive end has dealt with a slew of injuries the past two seasons, but wrapped up the regular season with a sack in the Raiders’ win. The senior, who committed to the Hurricanes in June, played in five games this season, recording four tackles for a loss and two sacks.