Devante Brooks didn’t have a superstar high school career like most other highly touted prospects. He never had the opportunity.
The tight end from St. John’s College High School (Washington, D.C.) missed his entire junior and senior seasons after suffering two ACL injuries to the same knee before each season. Brooks committed to Tennessee in January 2015 before the second injury. However, there was no obligation for the Vols to live up to that scholarship offer. The agreement was non-binding on both sides until Brooks signed his national letter of intent in February.
The Vols, however, stood by Brooks. He signed with Tennessee and is now about a month away from enrolling in college after two very long years. Here is some insight into some of the drama that Brooks had to deal with:
What was the moment like when you suffered that second knee injury? Did you know it was serious?
No, it was funny because the only reason I got an MRI was because I had a little hamstring issue. My mom was worried and told me I should get an MRI to make sure that your leg is OK, especially because of the knee.
The knee, I didn’t think anything of it because I had just had the Nike camp and I was back working out. I ran the fastest 40 (-yard-dash time) I had so far. I just felt great. I was just focused on my senior season and then all of the sudden I heard that I tore it a second time.
It was heartbreaking because I didn’t feel anything and all of the sudden it happened …This time, I took it (recovery) slow because it happened again …I maybe was rushing too much. I’ve definitely taken it slow this time. I haven’t done anything. No route running, no cutting until I get to Tennessee and let them do their magic.
As of now, I feel great and am just waiting it out until I can get down to Tennessee.
What was the 40-yard-dash time you ran on the torn ACL?
It was either a 4.6 (seconds) or a 4.63. It was one of those two.
So what do you think you can run once you’re 100-percent?
I’m pretty sure once I get down to Tennessee, I can get down under that 4.6 mark. My goal would be to run like a 4.45 or a 4.5, but me being realistic, I can probably run between a 4.45 and a 4.49 range. That’s where I want to be and that’s where I expect myself to be in two or three years from now.
How big are you now?
I’m 6-6 and I weigh 256.
When you got the news of the second knee injury, what was the first thing that went through your head? Were you worried at all that Tennessee might back off?
As soon as I heard the bad news, one of my first thoughts was, ‘Am I still going to Tennessee?’ because I tore it again and I wasn’t sure they had the same belief in me that they did when they first gave me an offer. I was definitely nervous and a little scared about my future because if Tennessee gives up on me, the schools that I hadn’t committed to, will they believe in me?
It was definitely nerve-wracking, but I called them (Tennessee coaches) a couple of hours after the news and they reassured me that they still love my talent and they still want me to be a part of the program. Now I’m here, just a month away from going there for good.
What did that mean for Tennessee’s coaches to have that dedication?
That let me know that Tennessee is the right place. I committed knowing that it was the place for me, but after that moment, the loyalty they showed towards me, that’s when I knew that, this is the place I’m supposed to be at. I don’t think many other schools would have been like that. For me, it meant a lot … I’m definitely ready to get down there, show them my hard work and give it my all.
What school came in second?
I would say most likely Michigan. They probably came in second.
What could they have done a little better?
They were too late basically because once I committed to Tennessee, I couldn’t stray away from them. Tennessee had me. As soon as I committed that was it for me and the recruiting process.
What was Michigan’s sales pitch after you were committed?
They just really wanted me to come on a visit. They said they loved the talent that I had. They were telling me they were bringing in a new system with the whole (coach Jim) Harbaugh crew, told me I needed to be a part of it. Told me just to come in once and see what they’re all about. I never went on a visit, but that’s what they were telling me.
How does that make you feel that a school like Michigan would still be interested after two serious knee injuries?
It’s definitely humbling to see that despite me missing two years, people still look at my sophomore tape and believe that my talent has potential and will grow. It was just exciting as well that I was still being looked at despite my injuries. I’m very blessed and humbled. I definitely don’t take anything I received so far for granted. I’m just ready to work, get back to 100-percent and start showing people what they’ve all been seeing in me.