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Ethan Brooks, ’96

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.

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#1 Comment By (d)avid On November 10, 2004 @ 8:34 pm

I have rooted for Ethan since he entered the NFL, but I will pull for him even harder now. He sounds like a class act through and through.

#2 Comment By Eric Smith ’99 On November 10, 2004 @ 10:24 pm

Ethan was on the track team with me my freshman year, his senior year. There is no way that he remembers me, but he is an easy guy to remember. He was always very nice to everyone, joked around, and was certainly the gentle giant.

Things I remember from one spring break with the track team:
1) rooming with him and seeing him throw a (probably drunk) Liam Pizano out of bed and across the room as if he were a stuffed animal

2) Ethan playfully pushing one of the girl throwers into the motel pool and then running from the scene of the crime and jumping a huge fence (taller than me and I am over 6′) as if wasn’t even there.

3) Going to an all you can eat buffet with he and his friends and then having to leave because even though they could have still eaten more, the place had ran out of meat. That and the manager didn’t take kindly to them doing push-ups next to the salad bar (part of losing in cards).

4) And most importantly, Ethan’s response when at another motel we asked for his help when a homeless guy was found (presumed dead) in our room. “What, does he have a gun?”
We all sort of looked at each other and with a sheepish “no” went and dragged the homeless man out of our room and dutifully took pictures with him in a Weekend At Bernies sort of way (he later came to and wanted us to buy him McDonalds, but we had no money).

I wasn’t close with Ethan, but he was always nice to me and I never knew about his wife. My heart goes out to him and his family (I knew his brother and sister from track as well).