August 01, 2017
The beaming smile winds it away through the maze of reporters, and cameramen, and lockers, and teammates, and stray equipment and helmets lying around. The beaming smile works its way to the back of the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex dressing room.
It’s hard to miss the smile. It’s hard to miss its owner.
Brandon Brooks wrapped up his first full day of training camp and the Eagles’ right guard couldn’t have been any happier. The 6-foot-5, 340-pound free agent signee from the Houston Texans is coming off of his best season as a pro on the field, his worst season as a pro off the field, and the best offseason in his life.
Brooks had a borderline Pro Bowl season in his first year with the Birds. Now, he’s hoping to break through and in the process further distance himself from what happened in 2016, when he missed two games due to severe anxiety attacks that landed him in the hospital.
So this offseason, Brooks wanted to address the issue and balance that by traveling and delving more into another of his passions, finance.
“This is the best offseason I’ve ever had, and probably the first thing to start off with is the anxiety deal,” Brooks said. “I started talking to a therapist in getting to the root of why I looked at football and mistakes so intensely, and why I thought to a certain degree that if I made a mistake, my whole world would come crashing down.
“I’m light years ahead of where I was in regards to that thought process. I can say that it’s something that’s behind me. I can’t say I still don’t get the butterflies, but it’s nowhere near as extreme of where I’ll miss a game because I’m physically ill. I think those days are behind me. I look forward to being out there every Sunday, barring injury, and going from there.”
So besides getting stronger in the offseason, Brooks applied his business degree from Miami of Ohio to internships, one with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Finance and Revenue. Brooks worked with the department through most of OTAs. On Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, he would go to practice, shower and then put on his business suit and go to work for the city.
“The days I had off I would go there for full days and sit in on city council meetings, seeing how the political side works hand-in-hand with the financial side,” Brooks said. “I saw the different channels finances go through and how money is spent. I saw how the soda tax was applied, and the city-wage tax was structured. I saw how the city is trying to fix the tax codes and bring in newer industries, like for example, software industries.
“You saw how different counties are compared to Philadelphia. I want to get into the private equity game after football, and that involves something else I did this summer, which was working with the Susquehanna International Group doing equity options research. I looked through balance sheets, 10Ks, financial analysis, relative analysis to help the traders out. I learned a lot and had a ton of fun.”
He worked at Susquehanna from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and right after would go to the NovaCare Complex, where he had the place to himself to work out from 5 to 7:30 every night, just Brooks and the weights.
“Now as lonely as that sounds, I actually loved it,” Brooks said. “I cranked the music up and went after it. I lifted, ran, got in the hot tub, hit the shower and went home. I’m down to around 340 [pounds] and feel great. I want to stay around 340, 345. I feel strong, and mentally light years ahead of where I was.”
Brooks also traveled to Boston, Washington D.C, Los Angeles, and Chicago – and even found time to make a stop in Ohio, where he attended a fan's wedding.
Lane got up and said, ‘Coach, I don’t give a [bleep]. It comes down to two things: Either you’re kicking somebody’s ass, or you get your ass kicked.’
“I love going to different cities,” Brooks said. “It made the summer better. I like to see different things. This was probably the best summer I’ve ever had. I still kept in contact with the boys – Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson. I see some good things happening to this team. We have a chance to be one of the best (offensive line) units in the league, all the way around.
“I had my ups and down, missing two games, and we had some injuries. You had to plug-in and play. I’m really looking forward to this year. Having Lane next to me a whole season, and even though Lane is a year younger than me, his fire and energy really drives me. Lane is one bad dude, and he really doesn’t care about anything—and I mean that in a positive way. Lane is looking to kick ass every play. I really feed off of that, playing next to someone like that.”
Watching film of an upcoming opponent, Brooks recalled with a laugh, Johnson was told the player he would be facing was supposed to be very good.
Said Brooks between laughs, “Lane got up and said, ‘Coach, I don’t give a [bleep]. It comes down to two things: Either you’re kicking somebody’s ass, or you get your ass kicked.’ Me and Lane joke back and worth about that all of the time, but at the end of the day, that’s what it is. That’s helped elevate my game. I think Lane is the best tackle in football. He’s a tremendous player on and off the field.”
Brooks himself is beginning to see a bright light ahead — a Pro Bowl, and he’s running towards it.
He also admits, unequivocally, that the Eagles are a team much better than last year’s 7-9 record would suggest. And could be a playoff team in 2017.
“One of the biggest things I came to Philadelphia – and ask any player around the league – is they all liked Gary Kubiak, and that’s who Doug Pederson reminds me of, a young Gary Kubiak,” Brooks said. “The players on this team believe in this guy. He’s a player’s coach, which seems like today, it’s almost like a bad thing to say about a coach. But to me, it’s a coach who listens to the heartbeat of his team.
“Pederson knows what he needs to motivate and knows to trust his players. He’s a great play-caller and super smart. Look what he’s done with Carson Wentz. I haven’t seen a rookie like Carson at any position. It did help having Chase Daniel here, because Chase took Carson under his wing. Chase brought what he learned from Drew Brees. Carson understood extremely fast and he grew from there. He took things on what Chase taught him, and began getting command in the huddle and rallied the guys in tough times.
“Off the field, Wentz is just a really good dude. I can’t wait to get this season started. We have so much going in our favor. Work isn’t a scary word around here. This is a team that works well with its brothers. I look forward to winning games.”
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