November 29, 2012

A hole on the roster

More news about: Wesley
Kirk Brooks will be there in spirit when his Wolverines take on Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday.
Wesley athletics photo

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

At this point in the season, no team is in need of extra motivation. Through unfortunate circumstances, however, the Wesley Wolverines will be playing with some additional inspiration on Saturday.

On Monday night, senior linebacker and team captain Kirk Brooks addressed his teammates before practice. He let his teammates know that the illness that has kept him out of Wesley's past three games was recently diagnosed as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Then, he told them not to worry about him and to take care of business in Texas on Saturday.

"He's been so darn positive. He's more worried about his teammates and coaches being worried about him," said Wesley coach Mike Drass. "He's a very mature young man and a consummate leader."

Brooks tore his medial collateral ligament in the season opener, but returned to the field five weeks later. He last played in the Wolverines' win over Huntington on Oct. 27. His last play was a fourth-quarter interception that helped seal Wesley's comeback victory.

"He's like the older brother of the linebacker group," said linebackers coach Tim Kane. "Not having him there on Saturday is going to be difficult, but we know he'll be there with us through texts and listening on the radio."

Initially, Brooks thought he was dealing with an upper respiratory infection. He would get winded easily, and his weight was down. When doctors scanned his chest and found a mass, he sat down with Wesley athletic trainer Chad Kragh as they searched online to prepare for all possible scenarios.

"We talked and joked and he helped me stay positive," said Brooks. "The worst thing we saw was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but we saw that there was a 97 percent recovery rate."

His doctors told him that he was surprisingly healthy for someone with the disease. They even told him that he could play this weekend if he felt that he had the energy. Then, the doctors scheduled his pre-treatment appointment for this Friday in order to begin chemotherapy sessions next Wednesday. While he would rather be with his team in Belton, whether on the field or in the coaching booth with Kane, Brooks trusts that his teammates will take care of their business while he takes care of his.

"The quicker we can get the treatment going, the quicker we can get it gone," said Brooks. "I'll have as many computers, televisions, and radios as I can find so I can be as involved in the game as much as I possibly can be on Saturday."

Brooks's positive attitude and athleticism will be two of his biggest weapons in his fight against cancer. Chris Norwell knows what Brooks is facing. The former University of Illinois defensive tackle and current defensive line coach at Thomas More was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma shortly after his playing days for the Illini ended.

"Being in great health as a football player will help him out in the treatment," said Norwell, who has fully recovered. "His body will be prepared a lot better because of all the work he put into it for football. He'll definitely be able to give this thing a good fight. The number one thing is staying positive."

Brooks, a double major in business management and accounting with a 3.3 GPA, uses preparing for a football game as a metaphor for preparing for cancer treatment.

"Coach always told us how hard it is to win one football game," said Brooks. "I feel good going into this situation knowing that my team is going to win. I know I'm going to be alright."

Wesley's helmets carry Kirk Brooks' number 50 on them this weekend.
@LMaginnis_52 via Instagram

While the NCAA allows 58 roster spots for playoff games, the Wolverines will only bring 57 players on the trip to Mary Hardin-Baylor. There will be an empty seat on the plane for Brooks, the leader who coaches look to to give tours to recruits, the captain who is the first to offer tutoring assistance to his younger teammates, the player who was the leader of the defense in training camp this year.

"We're not going to replace his roster spot," said Drass. "Number 50 is going to be with us in spirit."

This is the biggest battle Brooks has faced, but it is not the first time he has had to cheer for his teammates from a distance. He redshirted his second year due to injury. When he missed games earlier this season, he joined Kane in the coaches' booth. He has been a mentor to the rest of the linebacking corps.

"Some guys get really down when they're injured. He's never done that," said Kane. "From the beginning, he's just been so positive."

Kane and a few defensive teammates knew about Brooks's diagnosis before they took the field against Cortland State last weekend. The diagnosis doesn't change the game plan, but it does give the Wolverines some fuel to add to their fire.

"The linebackers had a little extra motivation going into last Saturday, playing for their brother," said Kane. "To keep him happy, we can keep winning. We're playing for a chance to win a national championship."

When he stood before his teammates on Monday night, Brooks had a simple message. After telling the players and coaches to stay focused on preparing for their rematch with the Cru, and before his teammates huddled around him to show their support, Brooks delivered words of humility, perspective, and leadership.

He told his teammates: "I've played my last game. I don't want this to be your last football game."

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 31, at N.C. Wesleyan 28
Box Score
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
Final
Framingham State 29, at Fitchburg State 26
Box Score Recap
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
Final
RPI 41, at Castleton State 13
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
at Massachusetts Maritime 26, Maine Maritime 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Rochester 30, Gallaudet 2
Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
at Husson 34, Alfred State 28
Box Score
Final
at Randolph-Macon 34, Sewanee 20
Box Score
Final
at Johns Hopkins 33, Moravian 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 20, Frostburg State 12
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Alfred 29, at Buffalo State 21
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Catholic 31, Newport News Apprentice 24
Box Score
Final
at Nichols 10, Becker 3
Box Score
Final
Wesleyan 22, at Middlebury 14
Box Score
Final
Bridgewater State 51, at Worcester State 27
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Tufts 24, Hamilton 17
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Amherst 14, Bates 6
Box Score Photos
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 32, Colby 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at William Paterson 36, Salve Regina 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 20, Lebanon Valley 14
Box Score
Final
Allegheny 24, at Hiram 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Merchant Marine 34, SUNY-Maritime 17
Box Score
Final
at St. Vincent 23, Case Western Reserve 20
Box Score
Final
Thomas More 66, at Thiel 27
Box Score Recap
Final
Ursinus 31, at Franklin and Marshall 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Endicott 41, at Kean 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 56, Coast Guard 0
Box Score
Final
Maryville (Tenn.) 40, at Averett 17
Box Score
Final
at Widener 41, Albright 23
Final
Hobart 43, at Curry 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Greensboro 37, LaGrange 35
Box Score
Final
at Dickinson 29, Susquehanna 28
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wesley 37, Rowan 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Lawrence 31, Morrisville State 14
Box Score
Final
at Misericordia 35, FDU-Florham 0
Final
at Gettysburg 31, Juniata 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Montclair State 27, Lincoln (Pa.) 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Wabash 31, at Denison 12
Box Score
Final - OT
Bethany 21, at Westminster (Pa.) 14
Final
at Springfield 47, Mount Ida 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 42, Hartwick 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Norwich 10, WPI 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Iowa Wesleyan 13, at Minnesota-Morris 7
Box Score
Final
at Methodist 41, Huntingdon 34
Box Score
Final
Ohio Northern 37, at Baldwin Wallace 35
Box Score
Final
at Capital 34, Wilmington 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Franklin 62, at Anderson 14
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 48, Carnegie Mellon 30
Box Score Recap
Final
at John Carroll 43, Heidelberg 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Lycoming 28, King's 13
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
at Waynesburg 44, Geneva 38
Final
Mount Union 62, at Muskingum 6
Box Score
Final
Mount St. Joseph 24, at Defiance 21
Box Score
Final
at Manchester 55, Earlham 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Williams 36, Bowdoin 0
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
Muhlenberg 59, at McDaniel 10
Box Score
Final
UW-Whitewater 48, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Otterbein 20, Marietta 0
Box Score
Final
Hope 25, at Lakeland 22
Box Score
Final
Olivet 49, at Aurora 20
Box Score Recap
Final
Albion 57, at Concordia (Wis.) 20
Box Score
Final
at Washington U. 24, North Park 19
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wisconsin Lutheran 32, Kalamazoo 20
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 17, UW-Eau Claire 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 23, at St. John's 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Bethel 40, St. Olaf 0
Box Score
Final
Augsburg 42, at Carleton 14
Box Score
Final
at Gustavus Adolphus 48, Hamline 19
Box Score
Final
Stetson 37, at Birmingham-Southern 19
Box Score
Final
Trinity (Texas) 14, at Sul Ross State 6
Box Score
Final
at Austin 21, Occidental 12
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Howard Payne 38, Southwestern Assemblies 25
Final
at Central 65, Maranatha Baptist 12
Box Score Recap
Final
at Luther 49, Grinnell 21
Box Score
Final
UW-Stevens Point 37, at Coe 21
Box Score
Final
at Greenville 30, Eureka 27
Box Score
Final
Westminster (Mo.) 27, at MacMurray 21
Box Score
Final
Texas Lutheran 38, at Louisiana College 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Simpson 13, Illinois Wesleyan 3
Box Score
Final
Trine 27, at Rockford 7
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
Rose-Hulman 48, at Hanover 42
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western Connecticut 45, Plymouth State 7
Box Score
Final
Hardin-Simmons 37, at Wayland Baptist 23
Box Score
Final
at Whittier 23, Lewis and Clark 10
Box Score
Final
Willamette 42, at Cal Lutheran 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Alma 24, at Concordia-Chicago 21
Box Score
Final
Carroll 28, at Lake Forest 7
Box Score
Final
Whitworth 50, at La Verne 48
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Westfield State 14, at Mass-Dartmouth 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Scholastica 48, Crown 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 34, DePauw 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
St. John Fisher 36, at Brockport State 20
Box Score Recap
Final
Guilford 35, at Southern Virginia 27
@ Salem Stadium
Box Score Recap
Final
Wooster 63, at Oberlin 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at Shenandoah 45, Ferrum 20
Box Score Photos
Final
Centre 28, at Washington and Lee 23
Box Score
Final
at Ohio Wesleyan 35, Kenyon 25
Box Score
Final
at Delaware Valley 54, Wilkes 35
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-River Falls 43, at South Dakota Mines 28
Box Score
Final
at Augustana 34, Loras 17
Final
at Dubuque 16, Pacific 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 28, UW-Platteville 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Chicago 29, at Elmhurst 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 41, at UW-La Crosse 22
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at South Dakota State 41, UW-Oshkosh 3
Box Score
Final
Adrian 23, at Benedictine 6
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Wartburg 45, UW-Stout 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 41, Martin Luther 27
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at East Texas Baptist 58, Southwestern 34
Box Score Recap
Final
Rhodes 42, at Pomona-Pitzer 21
Box Score Recap
Final
Linfield 36, at Redlands 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
Final
St. John Fisher 36, at Brockport State 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 34, DePauw 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wartburg 45, UW-Stout 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at South Dakota State 41, UW-Oshkosh 3
Box Score
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 28, UW-Platteville 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 41, at UW-La Crosse 22
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Linfield 36, at Redlands 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Whitewater 48, at TCNJ 0
Final
Mount Union 62, at Muskingum 6
Box Score
Final
at John Carroll 43, Heidelberg 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Lycoming 28, King's 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wesley 37, Rowan 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 56, Coast Guard 0
Box Score
Final
Wabash 31, at Denison 12
Box Score
Final
Thomas More 66, at Thiel 27
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 42, Hartwick 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Hobart 43, at Curry 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Johns Hopkins 33, Moravian 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bethel 40, St. Olaf 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 17, UW-Eau Claire 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Simpson 13, Illinois Wesleyan 3
Box Score

What We're Reading