Confident Brooks shredding defenses

Maybe everything you need to know about Cartel Brooks is contained in a simple click.

Brooks, the star running back for No. 9 Heidelberg, made an impact from the moment he stepped on a collegiate gridiron.

It just wasn’t exactly as he planned it. As a freshman in 2011, Brooks found himself not as the team’s star back, but as HU’s special teams ace.

“I had an injury at the beginning of the year, and I wasn’t getting much (playing time) on offense,” said Brooks, who starred on an undefeated Galion team in 2009. “I pretty much had to make my name somewhere, so, I started off on kickoff returns. I knew I wasn’t going to start playing offense unless I started doing something really good on kickoff returns.”

Safe to say he did some really good things

He returned three kicks for touchdowns, and was a key rusher on the 8-2 Student Princes, carrying the ball 83 times for 759 yards and seven touchdowns.

But he wasn’t the team’s main rusher. In ’11, HU’s No. 1 back was Germany Woods.

All Woods did in 2011 was set the Princes’ single season rushing record with 1,421 yards, and was an All-American.

That was Woods’ sophomore season, and it looked like Brooks might be the No. 2 back for at least a few more years.

Then things changed.

Woods left Heidelberg in the summer before the 2012 season. The news was reported on Twitter, with a link to an accompanying story.

Remember the click.

Brooks “favorited” the tweet, for everyone to see.

“I think (Brooks) has a lot of belief in his abilities, our guys have a lot of belief in his abilities,” Heidelberg coach Mike Hallett said. “I think that was the case two years ago in the summer when Germany decided to transfer.

“When you have a guy like Cartel, who is an outstanding player, and he showed the second half of his first year here that he had every capability of being a No. 1 back in the OAC. He’s backed that up at every turn.”

Heidelberg defensive coordinator Scott Donaldson, who recruited Brooks to the school, said Brooks simply saw his chance.

“He and Germany didn’t have any bad blood,” Donaldson said. “Cartel is a team guy. He is 100 percent the kid you want leading your team, because he is team first, and he’s always team first.

“You talk about favoriting that tweet, I think it was more about, ‘OK, it’s my time now.'”

And it has been.

Brooks was 15th in the nation in rushing and 19th in scoring in 2012. He led the OAC in rushing. That’s all the more impressive when you consider he was injured late in the season and didn’t play in the season finale against Baldwin-Wallace, and was limited in the team’s playoff loss to Wittenberg.

But as great as last season was for Brooks, he’s taken it to another level this season.

The junior has rushed for 1,078 yards through seven games. That’s sixth in the nation. He has 18 touchdowns on the ground, double what his closest OAC competitor – John Carroll’s DaQuan Grobsmith – has in that category. He’s won the leagues Offensive Player of the Week after each of his last two games.

And he’s breaking records. In a win over Otterbein two weeks ago, he ran for 337 yards and five touchdowns, breaking school marks set by Jeff Brock in 1999. Brock went into Heidelberg’s Hall of Fame earlier this fall.

“I get a better feel for the game,” Brooks said. “Watching film more, being familiar with other teams, I can see a lot of players are trying to eye me, so I think Coach Hallett sees that too … just trying to get the ball in my hands, I guess.”

The biggest game for HU so far this season comes Saturday, when fellow unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Mount Union comes to Mayer Field.

Also returning is Woods, who now goes to Mount Union and plays there.

“I’m definitely confident in our team; we have a great team,” Brooks said. “A great line, great D. If we just play our ball, and play to our potential we’ll be fine.

He sounds confident. Which, of course, isn’t a surprise.