Former Warner Robins and Westside head coach Robert Davis calls James Brooks the second-best high school football player he coached in his 36-year career.
Davis, who compiled a 352-74 record in 24 seasons at Warner Robins and 12 at Westside, rates Brooks teammate on the 1976 state and national championship team, Ron Simmons, who went on to an All-American career at Florida State before becoming a professional wrestler, as the only player who was better.
Davis and Simmons are already in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame for their accomplishments, and they will be joined by Brooks in that shrine this weekend when the 2014 class is inducted in ceremonies at the Macon City Auditorium.
Brooks and Simmons were the GHSA Class AAA back and lineman of the year respectively on that 1976 team that went 15-0 while outscoring their opponents 614-86. The Demons destroyed Griffin 34-0 in the state championship game.
From a personal perspective, when Brooks was a junior, I saw him race for a 77-yard touchdown on his only carry of the night in a 49-0 win over Northeast. A 77-yard-per-carry average aint bad. During his four-year career at Warner Robins. the Demons had a 42-3 record.
Following his brilliant high school career, he signed with Auburn, where he gained All-SEC and All-America honors. While with the Tigers, Brooks set the school record for kickoff return yardage (1,726) and all-purpose yardage (5,596).
Brooks scored 30 touchdowns during his Auburn days. He rushed for 1,208 yards as a junior and 1,314 as a senior.
As a sophomore, Brooks played in the same backfield with William Andrews and Joe Cribbs, who like Brooks went on to play in the NFL. Auburn managed just a 6-4-1 record that season.
In Brooks four years at Auburn the Tigers went 24-19-1, and in his senior year they failed to win an SEC game in six tries.
Brooks was a first-round pick, the 24th overall choice, in the 1981 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers, where he spent three seasons before being traded to the Cincinnati Bengals. While with the Bengals, he became their all-time leading rusher with 6,447 yards (that mark has since been eclipsed by Corey Dillon), and he had 297 receptions for 2,012 yards.
After eight seasons in Cincinnati, he spent his final year in the NFL at Cleveland and Tampa Bay.
For his career, Brooks accounted for 14,910 total net yards, which ranks in the top 30 in NFL history, and he scored 79 touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times (in 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1990), all while with the Bengals. He played for the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII when they lost to the San Francisco 49ers 20-16.
Joining Brooks in the 2014 Georgia Sports Hall of Fame class are former Georgia football standout Scott Woerner, LPGA star Hollis Stacy, who won three U.S. Open titles, legendary Georgia Tech basketball head coach Bobby Cremins, long-time Georgia Tech athletics director Homer Rice, baseballs Big Hurt Frank Thomas, who hit 521 home runs in his major-league career and who will be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, high school football head coach Jim Hughes, who won state titles at both Thomasville and Colquitt County, and Georgia Southern basketball whiz Chester Webb, who scored more than 2,500 points in his career.
To purchase tickets to the induction ceremonies or for more information about the weekend, call 752-1585 or visit www.gshf.org.
Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org