By: Max Marcilla
Antoine Brooks has shuffled positions quite often in his football life. The sophomore played quarterback in high school before he began his career at Maryland as a special teamer and linebacker.
During his second season in College Park, it seems as if Brooks has found a new impact spot: defensive back.
After the Lanham, Maryland native returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in Maryland’s season-opening win, Brooks picked off a pass in the Terps’ 63-17 victory over Towson on Saturday. He also broke-up a pass earlier in the first half and recorded two tackles, bringing his season total up to six.
“Antoine’s a great ball-player,” linebacker Shane Cockerille said after the game. “He can play nickel, play linebacker, help us in coverage, he can blitz. He just goes out there, has fun and plays ball.”
Kingsley Opara, a senior nose tackle, even thinks that Brooks’ experience at other positions has made Brooks a better player.
“He’s got really good instincts because he played the quarterback position,” Opara said. “He just knows what offenses [are] trying to run and concepts. He’s a smart football player.”
Opara, who recorded four tackles in the win, had to be convinced that Brooks could play safety. When Brooks played at DuVal High School (Lanham, Md.), Opara played against Brooks. The lineman asked, ‘Who’s this kid playing quarterback, safety and wide receiver?’”
Now, Opara is glad to have Brooks on his defense.
“He’s like my little brother,” Opara said. “He’s a great player and he brings like a swag to the defense. Jermaine [Carter Jr.]’s the leader of the defense, that’s his job. But Antoine’s like the swag on the defense.”
That ‘swag’ is perfectly fit for DJ Durkin’s Terrapin defense, which plays with energy, attitude and — more often than not — excessive juice.
“I just love Antoine,” Durkin said. “He plays with personality and he’s out there throwing his body around. He plays hard and he’s physical.”
While Antoine Brooks has proven he can play multiple positions — from linebacker, to nickel cornerback to an in-the-box safety — there was one teammate who wasn’t sold on him.
“I remember last year he said, ‘I can play safety, I can play safety,’ and I was like, ‘please,’” Opara said with a smile on his face.
But through the first two games of the season, Brooks has surely made Opara reconsider that friendly doubt.