November 29, 2012

A hole on the roster

More news about: Wesley
Kirk Brooks will be there in spirit when his Wolverines take on Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday.
Wesley athletics photo

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

At this point in the season, no team is in need of extra motivation. Through unfortunate circumstances, however, the Wesley Wolverines will be playing with some additional inspiration on Saturday.

On Monday night, senior linebacker and team captain Kirk Brooks addressed his teammates before practice. He let his teammates know that the illness that has kept him out of Wesley's past three games was recently diagnosed as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Then, he told them not to worry about him and to take care of business in Texas on Saturday.

"He's been so darn positive. He's more worried about his teammates and coaches being worried about him," said Wesley coach Mike Drass. "He's a very mature young man and a consummate leader."

Brooks tore his medial collateral ligament in the season opener, but returned to the field five weeks later. He last played in the Wolverines' win over Huntington on Oct. 27. His last play was a fourth-quarter interception that helped seal Wesley's comeback victory.

"He's like the older brother of the linebacker group," said linebackers coach Tim Kane. "Not having him there on Saturday is going to be difficult, but we know he'll be there with us through texts and listening on the radio."

Initially, Brooks thought he was dealing with an upper respiratory infection. He would get winded easily, and his weight was down. When doctors scanned his chest and found a mass, he sat down with Wesley athletic trainer Chad Kragh as they searched online to prepare for all possible scenarios.

"We talked and joked and he helped me stay positive," said Brooks. "The worst thing we saw was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but we saw that there was a 97 percent recovery rate."

His doctors told him that he was surprisingly healthy for someone with the disease. They even told him that he could play this weekend if he felt that he had the energy. Then, the doctors scheduled his pre-treatment appointment for this Friday in order to begin chemotherapy sessions next Wednesday. While he would rather be with his team in Belton, whether on the field or in the coaching booth with Kane, Brooks trusts that his teammates will take care of their business while he takes care of his.

"The quicker we can get the treatment going, the quicker we can get it gone," said Brooks. "I'll have as many computers, televisions, and radios as I can find so I can be as involved in the game as much as I possibly can be on Saturday."

Brooks's positive attitude and athleticism will be two of his biggest weapons in his fight against cancer. Chris Norwell knows what Brooks is facing. The former University of Illinois defensive tackle and current defensive line coach at Thomas More was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma shortly after his playing days for the Illini ended.

"Being in great health as a football player will help him out in the treatment," said Norwell, who has fully recovered. "His body will be prepared a lot better because of all the work he put into it for football. He'll definitely be able to give this thing a good fight. The number one thing is staying positive."

Brooks, a double major in business management and accounting with a 3.3 GPA, uses preparing for a football game as a metaphor for preparing for cancer treatment.

"Coach always told us how hard it is to win one football game," said Brooks. "I feel good going into this situation knowing that my team is going to win. I know I'm going to be alright."

Wesley's helmets carry Kirk Brooks' number 50 on them this weekend.
@LMaginnis_52 via Instagram

While the NCAA allows 58 roster spots for playoff games, the Wolverines will only bring 57 players on the trip to Mary Hardin-Baylor. There will be an empty seat on the plane for Brooks, the leader who coaches look to to give tours to recruits, the captain who is the first to offer tutoring assistance to his younger teammates, the player who was the leader of the defense in training camp this year.

"We're not going to replace his roster spot," said Drass. "Number 50 is going to be with us in spirit."

This is the biggest battle Brooks has faced, but it is not the first time he has had to cheer for his teammates from a distance. He redshirted his second year due to injury. When he missed games earlier this season, he joined Kane in the coaches' booth. He has been a mentor to the rest of the linebacking corps.

"Some guys get really down when they're injured. He's never done that," said Kane. "From the beginning, he's just been so positive."

Kane and a few defensive teammates knew about Brooks's diagnosis before they took the field against Cortland State last weekend. The diagnosis doesn't change the game plan, but it does give the Wolverines some fuel to add to their fire.

"The linebackers had a little extra motivation going into last Saturday, playing for their brother," said Kane. "To keep him happy, we can keep winning. We're playing for a chance to win a national championship."

When he stood before his teammates on Monday night, Brooks had a simple message. After telling the players and coaches to stay focused on preparing for their rematch with the Cru, and before his teammates huddled around him to show their support, Brooks delivered words of humility, perspective, and leadership.

He told his teammates: "I've played my last game. I don't want this to be your last football game."

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 13: All times Eastern
Final
Hobart 28, at Endicott 18
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Buffalo State 60, at Manchester 32
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Montclair State 7, at Salve Regina 6
Box Score Photos
Final
at Western Connecticut 58, Nichols 0
Box Score
Final
Alfred 34, at RPI 31
Box Score Recap
Final
Brockport State 17, at Cortland State 14
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Plymouth State 30, Mount Ida 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Bridgewater State 29, at William Paterson 20
Box Score
Final
Rowan 31, at Framingham State 21
Box Score
Final
at MIT 38, Becker 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Western New England 17, Westfield State 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Stevenson 7, at King's 0
Final
Lycoming 26, at Albright 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Muhlenberg 42, Franklin and Marshall 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Moravian 28, McDaniel 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Norwich 10, at St. Lawrence 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Elmhurst 33, at Olivet 27
Box Score
Final
Illinois Wesleyan 35, at Albion 28
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 35, Christopher Newport 30
Box Score
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 26, at Kalamazoo 12
Box Score Recap
Final
Widener 45, at Lebanon Valley 3
Final
at Adrian 40, Carthage 14
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Juniata 38, Dickinson 35
Box Score
Final
at Randolph-Macon 48, Averett 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trine 28, Millikin 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wilkes 41, Misericordia 7
Final
at Ursinus 31, Gettysburg 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Utica 23, at Union 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Concordia (Mich.) 23, Anderson 18
Box Score
Final
Morrisville State 43, at Hartwick 40
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
N.C. Wesleyan 27, at Lincoln (Pa.) 0
Box Score
Final
Greenville 44, at Minnesota-Morris 9
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 27, at Susquehanna 20
Box Score
Final
Capital 54, at Earlham 20
Box Score
Final
Emory and Henry 14, at Maryville (Tenn.) 13
Box Score
Final
UW-Whitewater 42, at Franklin 13
Box Score
Final
Centre 34, at Defiance 7
Box Score Photos
Final
Thomas More 45, at Hanover 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hope 37, Augustana 27
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Waynesburg 35, St. Vincent 24
Final
Millsaps 30, at Mount St. Joseph 22
Box Score
Final
Oberlin 47, at Kenyon 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Baldwin Wallace 32, Bluffton 20
Box Score
Final
at Simpson 22, UW-River Falls 6
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
St. Scholastica 41, at Iowa Wesleyan 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Platteville 26, Dubuque 21
Box Score Photos
Final
at Trinity International 49, Wisconsin Lutheran 22
Box Score
Final
Augsburg 55, at Concordia (Wis.) 45
Box Score Photos
Final
at Sewanee 21, Washington and Lee 19
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wartburg 31, Bethel 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Carleton 40, Knox 14
Box Score
Final
Gustavus Adolphus 42, at Lake Forest 9
Box Score Recap
Final
Luther 20, at St. Olaf 3
Box Score Photos
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 30, Buena Vista 9
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
North Central (Ill.) 51, at St. Norbert 17
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Texas Lutheran 37, at Hardin-Simmons 14
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
at Ripon 24, Rockford 14
Box Score
Final
at Beloit 27, Grinnell 23
Box Score
Final
at Carroll 34, Benedictine 6
Box Score
Final
at Southwestern 27, Sul Ross State 20
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at MacMurray 42, Martin Luther 36
Box Score Recap
Final
Westminster (Mo.) 34, at Crown 13
Box Score
Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 48, at Eureka 16
Box Score Recap
Final
Marian (Ind.) 24, at UW-Oshkosh 20
Box Score
Final
at Occidental 34, Puget Sound 32
Box Score Photos
Final
at St. Thomas 46, UW-La Crosse 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Coast Guard 42, Merchant Marine 31
Box Score Recap
Final
Maine Maritime 42, at Anna Maria 12
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Howard Payne 27, at Wayland Baptist 21
Final
at UW-Stout 21, Loras 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Alcorn St. 52, Louisiana College 10
Final
Rochester 35, at Alfred State 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Pacific Lutheran 35, Cal Lutheran 28
Box Score
Final
Whitworth 30, at Whittier 17
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Willamette 34, Trinity (Texas) 10
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
at LaGrange 28, Berry 27
Box Score Recap
Final
Wesley 43, at Salisbury 5
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Geneva 42, Grove City 0
Box Score
Final
Washington and Jefferson 56, at Westminster (Pa.) 21
Box Score
Final
at Alma 31, North Park 7
Box Score
Final
Frostburg State 20, at Shenandoah 10
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Bridgewater (Va.) 43, Greensboro 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Guilford 52, Methodist 20
Box Score
Final
at Rose-Hulman 74, Illinois College 68
Box Score Recap Recap Photos Photos
Final
Bethany 45, at Thiel 24
Box Score
Final
at Hiram 37, Denison 26
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John's 31, at UW-Eau Claire 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Huntingdon 29, Birmingham-Southern 12
Box Score
Final
at Rhodes 46, Washington U. 22
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chicago 38, Concordia-Chicago 0
Box Score
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 36, Redlands 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Monmouth 28, at Central 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hendrix 24, Bacone 14
Box Score
Final
at East Texas Baptist 43, Austin 27
Box Score
Final
at Hamline 23, Macalester 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Coe 50, at Cornell 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Lawrence 59, Maranatha Baptist 0
Final
La Verne 47, at George Fox 33
Box Score
Final
at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 36, Lewis and Clark 14
Box Score
Final
Linfield 21, at Chapman 14
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Sep. 18: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Christopher Newport at N.C. Wesleyan
Live Stats Video
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Framingham State at Fitchburg State
Live Stats Video
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Brockport State
Audio Tickets
6:00 PM
DePauw at Wittenberg
Live Stats Video Audio
8:00 PM
UW-Stout at Wartburg
Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at South Dakota State
7:00 PM
UW-Platteville at North Central (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at UW-La Crosse
10:00 PM
Linfield at Redlands
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at TCNJ
Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Muskingum
Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at John Carroll
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
King's at Lycoming
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Rowan at Wesley
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Coast Guard at Hampden-Sydney
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Denison
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Thiel
Video
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Hobart at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Moravian at Johns Hopkins
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Bethel
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Wheaton (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Simpson
Live Stats Video
Sep. 13: All times Eastern
Final
Wesley 43, at Salisbury 5
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 36, Redlands 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Linfield 21, at Chapman 14
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Thomas More 45, at Hanover 16
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Whitewater 42, at Franklin 13
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 27, at Susquehanna 20
Box Score
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 35, Christopher Newport 30
Box Score
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 26, at Kalamazoo 12
Box Score Recap
Final
Illinois Wesleyan 35, at Albion 28
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Lycoming 26, at Albright 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Thomas 46, UW-La Crosse 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Hobart 28, at Endicott 18
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Wartburg 31, Bethel 14
Box Score Photos
Final
Marian (Ind.) 24, at UW-Oshkosh 20
Box Score
Final
at UW-Platteville 26, Dubuque 21
Box Score Photos
Final
North Central (Ill.) 51, at St. Norbert 17
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Pacific Lutheran 35, Cal Lutheran 28
Box Score

What We're Reading