Daniel Brooks stood on Owen Field after an open practice earlier this spring looking forward to OU’s Red & White Game, the spring finale.
“I haven’t played in an actual game in three or four years,” Brooks said as he walked between students who had come onto the field seeking selfies with OU players . “This is going to get me out there, see what I can do and what I know I can do again and what I’m capable of.”
Brooks has essentially been out of the football spotlight since he was a senior in high school. The 5-foot-8, 182-pound redshirt sophomore from Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca, Texas, tore all the major ligaments in his knee during a long jump attempt during his senior season in 2012.
The Sooners stood behind Brooks and honored his scholarship, and the Brooks family even went as far as having OU’s own doctors perform the surgery to repair his knee.
Brooks spent his first two seasons in Norman rehabbing his knee, returning to form. He was moved from running back to defensive back.
Now he’s back at the running back position to stay.
“It’s been good. It’s been a long ride. Real long. I’ve been really working on it, rehabbing it and I really try not to think of it as a setback,” said Brooks.
On this day, Brooks was fending off butterflies, even though he wasn’t playing in an actual game, he knew he was about to scrimmage in front of the biggest crowd of his football career.
“Me not being in this position for such a long time in a game-like atmosphere, it’s going to be fun,” he said.
The day ended up a successful one for Brooks. He led all rushers with 8 carries for 67 yards during OU’s spring scrimmage.
“Daniel has been a great worker for us,” said Bob Stoops following the spring game. “He had a nice game today. You see his cuts coming back and his speed.”
Brooks flashed the type of quickness OU doesn’t seem to have at the running back position right now. While Keith Ford seeks out contact and Alex Ross has great power and top-end speed, Brooks’ return to the running back position gives the Sooners a nice change of pace at the position.
“The change of pace I give is good and of course I have the speed so you’ve got a different back in there,” Brooks said. “You can put me in to change it up.”
A change of pace is something Cale Gundy looks for at the running back position. In the recent history of the position, Damien Williams, Brennan Clay, Trey Millard and Roy Finch all brought something different to the table.
Brooks looks like he’s back to being the type of athlete that can give Gundy that type of versatility.
And Brooks is feeling more at home than ever since moving back to the offensive side of the ball.
“Running back is where I feel most comfortable,” he said. “I don’t have to worry. It’s natural. I don’t have to think about it too much. All I have to worry about is knowing my assignments but other than that it’s natural.”
Brooks heads into the summer with the best hope he’s had of returning to form, of becoming the player OU recruited in 2011-12.
“It was a process of working to get back where I was at,” he said. “I wasn’t able to just come out here and do it. I had to work my way back to where I was.”
Those 67 rushing yards in OU’s spring game certainly shined a light on all the work he’s been doing behind the scenes the last two years.