Texas receiver commits to Panthers
Pitt used a West Coast connection to lure a Texas recruit and enhance its reputation as Wide Receiver U.
The Panthers landed an early commitment from Donald Brooks of Galveston O'Connell High School. The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and is considered a big target with breakaway speed.
It didn't hurt the Panthers that O'Connell coach, Dimitri Gazelas, played strong safety at Pacific University under Pitt coach Walt Harris and defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. Harris was his head coach in 1991-92, and Rhoads his position coach in '92-93.
They used their long-standing relationship with Gazelas to get a head start on Brooks.
“I told them I thought I had somebody,” said Gazelas, who has since had inquiries from the likes of Oklahoma and Texas A&M about Brooks. “I showed them tape before anybody else. Now everybody's storming down the doors for him.”
Brooks was a Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Class 3A first-team all-state selection after catching 25 passes for 626 yards — an average of 25 yards per catch — and eight touchdowns as a junior.
Not only does he have great size, but Brooks also is considered a deep threat. Of his eight touchdown catches last season, five were of 45 yards or longer. He had touchdown grabs of 53, 61, 59 and 52 yards and also had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“He's very strong for his height,” Gazelas said. “He's a slender type but well put-together. He has a beautiful gait. After the first two steps, he's gone. He's caught 2-yard hitches and gone 50 yards, and he's ran fades for 50 yards. Either way, doesn't matter.”
Brooks attended Galveston Ball High School his freshman and sophomore years, but didn't play football. He concentrated instead on basketball, where Gazelas said he can perform a 360-degree dunk from a standing position beneath the basket.
“I think I know talent, and I think the sky's the limit for him,” Gazelas said. “He's raw. I still have to teach him how to run routes. You don't find too many that's 6-4 that can move. One thing he has is work ethic. There's no telling what he can do.”
Brooks joins Kiski Area linebacker Chris McKillop (6-4, 232), who committed to Pitt on May 24, as the Panthers' early commitments from the Class of 2003. Brooks is the second player from Texas that Rhoads has landed. The Panthers made headway into the Lone Star State by signing linebacker Azzie Beagnyam from Houston Clear Lake in February.
Brooks, however, has never visited Pittsburgh and chose the Panthers without seeing their Oakland campus or South Side facilities. Gazelas said that Brooks is considering attending Pitt's skills camp for two days later this month, where he can get a chance to work with Panthers coaches individually and see their wide-open offense in action.
“That's the main reason he chose Pitt, probably the most attractive part about it,” Gazelas said of the Panthers' pass-oriented offense. “He's going to get some other offers. We'd be naïve not to think so. It's just a matter of how much they sell their school and how much he enjoys his visit.”