The following is something I wrote on Rebunk that I thought might be of some interest to Ephbloggers:
Today’s Baltimore Sun sports section has a feature about my friend and Williams track teammate Ethan Brooks (’96).
Ethan plays offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. His story is a remarkable one. He was a dozen-or-so-time All American (and multiple National Champion) as a thrower (35 pound weight, shot put, hammer throw, discus) and defensive lineman (He was the DIII player of the year his senior year) at Williams. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Falcons, where he switched between defense and offense so many times his rookie year, including playing both ways in a preseason game against the Rams, that his teammates took to calling him “Deion.” I was able to see his first game as a rookie against the Carolina Panthers when I was living in Charlotte. It was the first game at the new stadium in the Queen City and as a rookie, Ethan sat the bench. Still, I could tell that he was happy to have me there and I have subsequently gone to a handful of his games.
In the last few years Ethan has been a starter as well as a backup for several teams. This last weekend he got the game ball for shutting down Kenard Lang of the Browns, who had earned three sacks against Ethan in the opening game of the year. That first game Ethan started at right tackle for the Ravens’ all-world tackle Jonathan Ogden despite having practiced as a right tackle all preseason. This past weekend E was far more comfortable and played a great game, including making a key block on Jamal Lewis’ touchdown to put the Ravens ahead for good. (For a picture of the run and block, see here.)
This story is remarkable enough — great athlete and student goes to Williams College, plays Division III sports, goes to the NFL, changes positions rather dramatically, and after seven years is still in the league and indeed is playing some of the best football of his career. But the part that makes the story so profound is the personal element of the story. Ethan is a gentle giant. He is enormous — 6′ 7″ 300 pounds and with less body fat than any Rebunk reader, I’d be willing to bet. (I challenged him to wrestle once when the track team was on spring break in South Carolina and a group of us had a house together. I lost.) And as the Sun story indicates, he is very quiet. He is tough to get to know (which makes my friendship with him all the more remarkable). Just three years ago, Ethan’s young wife, Jackie, died of cancer. Even as Ethan went through the motions of practice, film, weight lifting, and the like, he spent many nights on the floor of her hospital room.
This is not something about which Ethan has talked much in these past three years. But it has been a burden he has carried all along. Since Jackie’s death he has quietly (of course) become active in a range of community service activities, particularly related to cancer. In 2002 he was one of the recipients of the NFL’s Ed Block Courage Awards. Ethan is my friend, and so I have rooted for him everyplace he has gone (An itinerary that has included Atlanta, St. Louis, Phoenix, Denver, and now Baltimore), making his team my second favorite with each stop. But after reading his story, I hope you will be rooting for him too.