Safety Antoine Brooks Jr. was the second player out of Maryland to be drafted by the Steelers in 2020, behind Anthony McFarland Jr. Pittsburgh selected him with the 198th overall pick in the sixth round of the draft.
A High School Career Full of Ups and Downs
Brooks was born and raised in Lanham, Maryland, where he attended DuVal High School. There, he played on both sides of the field as a defensive back and a quarterback.
During his senior year, Brooks suffered a severe injury that kept him out for the season. He broke his wrist and had a compound fracture in his ankle.
Most colleges stopped calling and Brooks questioned whether he even wanted to continue playing football. That is, until Maryland called in January 2016.
Brooks, who had initially committed to play at Buffalo, decided to discuss his options with newly hired Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin. He also sought guidance from his high school head coach, Dameon Powell.
“He loved Maryland, no question,” Powell said. “But he was loyal because Buffalo was there the whole time and never left. He didn’t care [about] the level of play, because he knew wherever he was going to go, he was going to shine.”
Brooks made the decision to commit to Maryland just a few days before Signing Day.
Paving His Way at Maryland
Brooks began his career at Maryland as a linebacker. As a freshman, he played in just six games, mostly on special teams.
After talking with another linebacker, Brooks knew his time in College Park would be different than he expected.
“Jermaine Carter, who was the starting linebacker at the time, my big bro,” Brooks said. “He got on me one practice and was like, ‘You know what? I want to win a bowl game or a championship. So you’re gonna start on defense.’ That’s how he straight up asked me. I said, ‘Yeah, big bro. I’ll be on the starting team within two or three days.’ So then after an interception in practice, they switched me to nickel [corner].”
His breakout season came the following year as a sophomore. Brooks finished 2017 leading the team in solo tackles (53), ranked second in total tackles (77) and tied for second in interceptions (2).
As a junior, he started in all 12 games and was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection by conference coaches.
To round out his time at Maryland in 2019, Brooks finished the season leading the Terrapins with 87 tackles and 69 solo tackles. He was also selected as the teams most valuable player.
Drafted by the Steelers in Sixth Round
After being drafted by the Steelers, fans believe Brooks is the type of player that Pittsburgh needs in order to round out their secondary.
His abilities as a hybrid position player make him capable of bringing a different skill set to the Steelers defense, according to current Maryland head coach Mike Locksley.
“He was a quarterback in high school, so the ball skills are there,” Locksley said. “When the ball is in the air [he] is capable of making a play to come down with it.”
Steelers’ fans are eager to have these two Maryland teammates join the roster, and Brooks is just as excited.
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) April 29, 2020
“He plays with great energy and emotion,” Tomlin said. “You see it. His love for the game is evident. I hadn’t been around him, but I just know he’s the type of guy when he walks in the room, he brings the gas with him. He’s an energy bringer, not an energy drainer. A good teammate in that way. A football lover. And you can always find places for guys like that, whether he’s playing the safety position, sub package linebacker position, or special teams, I know he’s going to bring that energy to all that we ask him to do.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Steelers.com
“From Our Haus to Yours“