Born For the Big-Time

Sept. 8, 2004

by C.J. Bowles
Some people have a calling in life. Shaquille O'Neal is 7-foot-1; his calling was to be a professional basketball player. Mariah Carey has a singing range of seven octaves; her calling was to be a singer. Ryan Brooks weighed more than 140 pounds by the third grade; his calling was to be an offensive lineman.
'In the Tri Cities/Richland area, you have to be under a certain weight to play in the `Grid Kids' league,' explained Brooks of his hometown's local youth football organization. 'I was too big, so I started playing in the seventh grade, although I wanted to start earlier.'
Now 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, and a three-time letterman for the University of Washington, Brooks seems to have grown into his calling quite nicely.
In four years at Richland High School, where he helped lead the Bombers to the 4A state football championship his senior season, Brooks excelled at baseball, basketball, and track and field, but football was king. Following his senior season, Brooks was named All-America honorable mention by USA Today, and earned all-state honors from the Associated Press, Seattle Times, and Tacoma News-Tribune.
After accepting a scholarship to play for the Huskies, Brooks redshirted his first year and then spent the next three seasons backing up the seasoned Husky line. In total, Brooks has appeared in 31 games both as an offensive lineman and on the special teams squad heading into the 2004 season.
'I haven't really gotten a whole lot of playing time, but I have been a very reliable backup,' explained the modest Brooks. 'I am always ready when they need me.'
Brooks will certainly be needed this season, with the Husky line returning just one player with more than six career starts. There will be plenty of chances to create more memories, perhaps even some to rival Brooks' fondest as a Husky.
'The last three Apple Cups,' he says. 'They were all phenomenal games, and there was so much emotion involved. Those were awesome.'
Now as a senior, Brooks wants to cherish his remaining time and pass his knowledge onto some of his greener teammates.
'It came really quick,' Brooks says. 'It just kind of comes up on you that it's your last season. I definitely feel added responsibility being a senior. I try to bring in the young guys and talk to them; make them feel wanted and show them what they need to do. I feel like I know the offensive line extremely well and I try to give them pointers and help them out when I see that they need to work on certain things.'
Projected as the starting right tackle heading into fall camp, it is now Brooks' time to not only teach, but to add to the rich Washington tradition. He does not plan to disappoint.
'All of the players that have come before me and worn my number and all those people that are in the stands, I want to make them proud and not disappoint all the people that have built this program,' he says. 'I want to show myself with pride and keep adding to that tradition myself.'
When asked what players he has considered role models throughout his life, he cites not the star guards of the NFL, but rather two players who have made a direct impact on his career.
'I really looked up to Chad Ward and Elliot Silvers because they were such great players when I came in as a freshman,' he says. 'It was fun to be able to play along with them.'
For now, the business administration major enjoys spending his free time playing golf with his girlfriend and playing with his new dog, a border collie/Australian shepherd mix. Brooks can't say what he'll be doing after graduation, but he certainly knows where he'll be doing it.
'I want to go back to Richland,' he says. 'It's just big enough but not too big. If I have a good season maybe something can happen (with football), but getting into construction and contracting is something I've always wanted to do. I'm tired of the big city and ready to go back.'
Brooks will have to put up with the city for one more year. Then, the boy too big to play football in the third grade can return to small-town Richland. What happens then? No one knows, but you can be sure that Ryan Brooks is meant for something big.

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