DonJ’rael Brooks of Upland High caught a wide receiver screen pass on the run. He turned his head and immediately saw two La Habra defenders fast approaching.
In an instant, Brooks planted his outside foot in the turf and cut between both.
A safety came across and made a diving attempt at Brooks, hitting him in the legs. He stumbled slightly but regained his balance and scored from 53 yards out for Upland’s first points of 2019.
It was a bit of redemption for Brooks after he missed two-thirds of his junior season with head injuries.
“My performance could have been better, always could have been better, but I had a touchdown that I think really boosted my team’s momentum,” Brooks said Thursday following Upland’s 21-14 loss. “Even though it’s a loss, I take it like a good mistake. As in, we’re going to build from this. We’re going to be a better team than we were today.”
Brooks is trying to make up for lost time on the field and with college recruiters who didn’t get to see a full showcase of his talents last season.
Brooks is only 5 foot 10, but his size belies his ferocity on the field.
“Even though I’m just 160, 165 [pounds], I love to tackle. Love to hit,” said Brooks, who plays receiver and cornerback for Upland and is being recruited as a cornerback.
He plays cornerback with the mentality of a safety patrolling the middle of the field looking for a receiver to hit.
Brooks received scholarship offers from Auburn and Oregon in March and got one from Arizona State after taking an unofficial visit to the desert a couple weeks later. Nevada offered him before his junior season and remains in the mix.
Top fit, so far
Brooks has had the most contact with Arizona State. He sees a defensive mentality similar to his own when he watches the Sun Devils.
“They play a lot of physical ball. They like to blitz a lot,” Brooks said. “They told me that I could play nickel. I could play corner. I could play anything out there, just get a lot of tackles, get a lot of picks, [pass breakups], all of that.”
Those are the things Brooks says he needs to get this season to continue attracting attention from colleges. The more he scores, the more passes he intercepts, the more tackles he makes, the more likely he is to catch someone’s eye.
“I got to ball out, man. It’s all about the stats and how you contribute to the team,” he said. “But I’m just going to let [the recruiting process] come to me. I’m going to ball out, trying to win another championship.”
A good teammate never hurts
Upland’s players have one advantage when it comes to getting noticed. They play with one of the nation’s top prospects, five-star linebacker Justin Flowe.
Flowe’s prowess in the middle of the Highlanders’ defense has attracted numerous coaches and assistants to practices and games over the last three years. While Flowe may be their top priority, coaches are always watching to see who else impresses.
“I feel blessed for Justin to bring all these schools here, so they can see me, my teammates and all of us getting some offers,” Brooks said.