/playoffs/2012/wesleys-kirk-brooks-battles-lymphoma

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."

Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Box Score Recap
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
Video Video Live stats Live stats
Oct. 21: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Westfield State at Framingham State
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Moravian at Juniata
Live stats
12:00 PM
Endicott at Salve Regina
Video Preview Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
St. Vincent at Thomas More
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
Hobart at Union
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Colby at Hamilton
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
William Paterson at Christopher Newport
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Ithaca
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Kenyon at Allegheny
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Mount Ida
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Middlebury at Bates
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Catholic at Springfield
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Wesleyan at Amherst
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Bowdoin at Trinity (Conn.)
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Husson at Gallaudet
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Wabash at Oberlin
Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Buffalo State at Utica
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Muskingum
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Montclair State at Frostburg State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Rowan at Wesley
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Albright at Stevenson
Video Live stats Audio Tickets
1:00 PM
Wittenberg at DePauw
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Alma at Albion
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Shenandoah at Guilford
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Massachusetts Maritime
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Wooster at Hiram
Preview Audio
1:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Hampden-Sydney
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Alfred State at Anna Maria
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Bridgewater at Emory and Henry
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wilkes at FDU-Florham
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Misericordia
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Rochester at St. Lawrence
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
RPI at Alfred
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Nichols at Curry
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Southern Virginia at Salisbury
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Ferrum at Brevard
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Apprentice
Audio
1:00 PM
Ursinus at Susquehanna
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Cortland at Morrisville State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Hope at Trine
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-River Falls
Video
1:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Sewanee
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Dickinson at Franklin and Marshall
Video Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Tufts at Williams
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Wilmington
Video Live stats Audio
1:30 PM
MIT at Coast Guard
Video Live stats Audio
1:30 PM
Maine Maritime at Norwich
Video Preview Live stats
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at Marietta
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:30 PM
Franklin at Rose-Hulman
Video Preview Preview Live stats
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Capital
Video Live stats Audio
1:30 PM
Bluffton at Manchester
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Anderson
2:00 PM
Kean at TCNJ
Live stats
2:00 PM
Greensboro at LaGrange
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Worcester State
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Muhlenberg at McDaniel
Video Preview Live stats
2:00 PM
Western New England at Becker
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Methodist at Maryville (Tenn.)
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Adrian at Kalamazoo
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Denison at Ohio Wesleyan
Video Preview Live stats
2:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at Washington and Jefferson
Video Live stats Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Berry at Millsaps
Audio
2:00 PM
Olivet at Benedictine
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at Austin
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Belhaven at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at UW-Stout
Audio
2:00 PM
Eureka at MacMurray
Video
2:00 PM
Carthage at Illinois Wesleyan
Video Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Luther
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Buena Vista
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Wisconsin Lutheran
Video Preview Live stats
2:00 PM
Rockford at Aurora
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Concordia-Chicago
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Carleton at St. Olaf
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Augsburg at Concordia-Moorhead
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. Thomas at Hamline
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Greenville
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Coe at Loras
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Monmouth at Cornell
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at North Park
Live stats
2:00 PM
Northwestern (Minn.) at Martin Luther
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Texas Lutheran
Video Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Grinnell at Lake Forest
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Carroll at Millikin
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Ripon at Macalester
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Lawrence at St. Norbert
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at Crown
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Minnesota-Morris at Iowa Wesleyan
2:10 PM
UW-Platteville at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live stats Audio
2:30 PM
Merchant Marine at WPI
Video Live stats
2:30 PM
Rhodes at Centre
Video Live stats
2:30 PM
Hanover at Earlham
Video Preview Live stats Audio
2:30 PM
Beloit at Chicago
Video Preview Live stats
3:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at UW-La Crosse
Video Live stats Audio Audio
3:00 PM
Simpson at Dubuque
Video Live stats Audio
3:00 PM
Augustana at North Central (Ill.)
Video Live stats Audio
3:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Louisiana College
Live stats
4:00 PM
Hartwick at Brockport
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
Western Connecticut at Bridgewater State
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
Chapman at La Verne
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
Pacific at Lewis and Clark
Video Live stats Audio Audio Tickets
4:00 PM
Pacific Lutheran at Willamette
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
Puget Sound at Whitworth
Video Live stats Audio
4:00 PM
Redlands at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Video Audio
4:30 PM
George Fox at Linfield
Video Preview Live stats Audio
5:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Howard Payne
Video Live stats
6:00 PM
Dean at Castleton
Video Live stats Tickets
6:00 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Averett
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Otterbein
Video Preview Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Geneva
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Carnegie Mellon at Thiel
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Knox at Illinois College
Video Live stats
10:00 PM
Whittier at Cal Lutheran
Video Live stats
Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Box Score Recap
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
Video Video Live stats Live stats
Oct. 21: All times Eastern
1:00 PM
Rowan at Wesley
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Montclair State at Frostburg State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Wittenberg at DePauw
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Catholic at Springfield
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Wilmington
Video Live stats Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at Marietta
Video Preview Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at Washington and Jefferson
Video Live stats Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Texas Lutheran
Video Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Belhaven at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. Thomas at Hamline
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Carthage at Illinois Wesleyan
Video Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Augsburg at Concordia-Moorhead
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Berry at Millsaps
Audio
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Luther
Video Live stats
2:10 PM
UW-Platteville at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live stats Audio
3:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at UW-La Crosse
Video Live stats Audio Audio
3:00 PM
Augustana at North Central (Ill.)
Video Live stats Audio
4:00 PM
Hartwick at Brockport
Video Live stats
4:30 PM
George Fox at Linfield
Video Preview Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Geneva
Video Preview Live stats