Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Trevor Brooks appeared to be on his way to a standout football career when he left John Carroll Catholic High School in 2012 on a football scholarship to the University of North Alabama.
The former Cavalier did indeed earn All-America honors, but not on the gridiron. Brooks was one of 25 players named recently to the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) All-America rugby team for his play with UNA’s club rugby squad.
“It is a little ironic,” Brooks said in a telephone interview from Denver, Colorado, where he’s playing with the Barbarians of Denver Sevens Rugby. “If you had told me in high school when I graduated I would be an All-American playing rugby and not in football, I wouldn’t believe you. I would have laughed at you and walked away.”
Brooks grew up playing football, baseball and basketball. He was part of YMCA basketball squads in Avondale and played on the diamond with Southside Baseball. His formative youth football was with the John Carroll Knights, a feeder to John Carroll Catholic High School.
As a senior safety and wide receiver at John Carroll, Brooks was a Birmingham News Player of the Week nominee for his play in a 35-27 loss to Thompson in November 2011. He had five receptions for 211 yards and a TD to go with 13 tackles on defense in that game.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder ended the season as the defensive athlete on The Birmingham News’ All-Hoover/South Team. He tallied 7.8 tackles per game and finished with 587 receiving yards and six TDs.
Brooks’ high school career earned him a scholarship with the Lions, but not playing time. According to UNA sports information, he red-shirted during the 2012 season and was on the active roster in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Records show that he never played a single snap but he received three Gulf South Conference championship rings. With classes still to take to earn his degree in secondary social science education, Brooks decided to scratch his competitive itch with a new venture.
“I did my four years of football (at UNA) and I was done with that,” he said. “I still had a few years of school left and I just needed something I could spend my time with and keep me out of trouble.”
Brooks, now 190 pounds, had some friends who had played football with him about three years before who had turned to rugby.
“They kept egging me on and eventually I did.”
What Is Rugby?
Trevor’s father and mother, Travis and Gubray, had always been supportive of athletic endeavors of their sons, including their oldest son Travis, Jr., who was in the football program at South Alabama. Trevor’s move to rugby left his parents scratching their heads.
“Since he was redshirted and gray-shirted (in 2013), he had two more years of eligibility,” the father said. “He called me one day and said, ‘Dad, I’m going to play rugby.’ I said, ‘What is rugby?’ I’d seen on TV at two o’clock in the morning but I really didn’t know much about rugby.”
Travis Brooks, Sr., who works in the finance department of the City of Birmingham, did some homework and researched rugby on the Internet, learning about a scrum and other basic parts of the game.
“But when you see it in real life, it’s a little bit different,” he said. “I was totally in the dark.”
Eddie Roberts coaches the North Alabama club rugby team. Brooks is UNA’s third All America since the program began seven years ago, following Matthew “HP” Moore in 2015 and Eli Phillips in 2016.
Roberts submitted Brooks for consideration to play for a “sevens” team during the summer in Denver. Conventional rugby is played with 15 players on a field for each team; sevens is a smaller version of the sport.
Recently, Brooks’ Barbarians squad qualified to compete in the USA National Sevens Championship on August 11 and 12 at a site to be determined.
“I’m not blowing his whistle,” Travis Brooks said of his son, “but it shocked me everything that’s happened for him.”
Trevor Brooks, the former football free safety and wide receiver, played fullback with his UNA club team. He’s played as a winger, more of an edge player, while he’s been in Denver.
Roberts said Brooks’ mental toughness and character, combined with his athleticism, have bolstered him in rugby. The coach said the former John Carroll Cavalier football player could find himself on a professional roster.
Major League Rugby launched this year as the highest level of American rugby, he said.
“I can certainly see Trevor latching on if he chooses to pursue that career option,” the Lions coach said. “Absolutely, he has the tools to play at the next level, no doubt.”
Said Trevor Brooks: “I still have the same dream, trying to make it to the pros and be one of the first in my family to make it and be able to say I did it. That’s my real goal.”