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Inside The Chart: On The Rise

by Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets)

On The Rise:  LaMiles Brooks came to Georgia Tech as a decorated defensive back. In his first season as a starter, the safety has given the Yellow Jackets an immediate, ball-hawking boost.

By Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets) | Inside The Chart

LaMiles Brooks got the turnover but he couldn’t escape the ribbing.

After recovering a fumble on Georgia Tech’s opening defensive series against Virginia last Thursday, the sophomore bounded to the sidelines to celebrate with his teammates. Fellow safety Derrik Allen decided to inject some snark into the proceedings.

“He told me I owed him one.  I should have picked the ball up and ran and tried to get a touchdown,” Brooks said.

Challenge accepted.

On the very next series, Brooks intercepted a tipped pass from nickel back K.J. Wallace and galloped 37 yards for a touchdown, the Yellow Jackets’ first pick-six in four years. On his way back to the sidelines, the Jacksonville, Fla., native made sure to intercept Allen.

“I told him ‘I got you.’ He gave me a big hug and laughed,” he said.

VIDEO: LaMiles Brooks' 37-yard interception return versus Virginia (ACC Digital Network)

The score was Georgia Tech’s only touchdown of the night against the Cavaliers, but it provided yet another marker in Brooks’ rapid (but not unexpected) ascent from first-year starter to impact safety. In addition to his interception and fumble recovery against Virginia, the 6-foot-2, 192-pounder added a career-high nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He currently has the eighth highest grade among safeties nationally according to Pro Football Focus.

“He’s a student of the game and it shows up on the playing field on Saturdays,” said defensive backs coach Travares Tillman.

Thankfully his stats don’t require as much explanation as his offseason name change. For the record, Miles is his given name. Every newspaper article and recruiting website referred to him as such. He still goes by @realmilesbrooks on Twitter. As a freshman in high school, though, a senior playfully started calling him “LaMiles.” Brooks liked it and adopted it, even incorporating it into his Instagram handle @lamiless. Everyone back home, he says, calls him “LaMiles.”

That nom de guerre stayed a secret at Tech – and Brooks never bothered to bring it up to anyone – until former Tech cornerback Tobias Oliver connected the dots on Instagram.

“Last season, Tobias Oliver called me ‘LaMiles’ every day, all day. And then everybody else started picking back up on it. And that’s just what I’ve run with since,” he explained.

“I started recruiting him in ninth grade,” said Georgia Tech head coach Brent Key. “I told him [Wednesday]. I said, ‘Man, I’m still having a hard time calling you LaMiles.’

“He goes, ‘You’ll figure it out, Coach.’”

Key figured out early on that Brooks could be a star. By the time he graduated from Trinity Christian, a private school power in Jacksonville, he had risen to the No. 10-ranked cornerback in the country according to Rivals. Brooks signed with Tech over overtures from Ohio State, Oklahoma and Alabama.  Key visited him at Trinity Christian while on staff with the Crimson Tide.

Brooks’ ranginess and instincts made him a natural fit at safety. Yet when he arrived at Tech, he still had to bide his time behind Juanyeh Thomas, an All-ACC stalwart who started 33-of-34 games over the past three seasons. In his first two years Brooks, logged only 10 tackles while serving mainly on special teams.

Rather than get discouraged by a lack of playing time, Brooks embraced his apprenticeship with Thomas.

“Since I’ve been here, Juanyeh’s been like my big brother. He’s been prepping me for a situation like this upon his exit,” he said.

(Brooks and Thomas actually FaceTimed each other before the Virginia game.  According to Thomas, Brooks promised his former teammate he’d get an interception. He wound up with the first pick-six by a Yellow Jacket since Thomas had one against Louisville in 2018.)

In his first season as a starter, sophomore LaMiles Brooks (20) is college football’s No. 8-ranked safety, according to Pro Football Focus.

 

Still, replacing a three-year starter can be a daunting task. Tillman, his new defensive backs coach, knew Brooks would be ready even before spring practice started. In position group meetings over the winter, he peppered Tillman with questions. He devoured film on his own. He heard the way he explained concepts to his teammates.

“He sees everything. The kid is very intelligent,” said Tillman, a former All-ACC safety at Tech.

That’s led to the trait that his coaches and teammates say has been his biggest contribution on the Georgia Tech defense.

“The communication that Miles has is as high-level of communication on the back end as I’ve been around. I’ve had the privilege of being around a lot of really, really good defensive backs over the last 20, 25 years, and he communicates at such an unbelievable level,” Key said. He credits Brooks with getting true freshman Clayton Powell-Lee, who replaced the injured Jaylon King at free safety three games ago, with consistently getting him lined up correctly.

“He’s seeing things before they even happen. That comes from his film study,” said Tillman. “He’s calling out plays and he’s not even on the field. He’s had his four or five reps but now he’s still on the sideline communicating with the guys that are on the field. So he’s getting double-duty in that respect.”

With his and Zamari Walton’s interceptions against Virginia, Georgia Tech now has as many picks through seven games (9) as it had in its previous two seasons combined. Tillman attributes it to Brooks’ cerebralism and his influence on the secondary throughout the week.

“It’s the way we prepare in meetings, which leads to how we prepare out here at practice, and it translates over to the game. Everybody trusts everybody,” Brooks said.

“Even now he’s a leader. He’s one of the good guys and one of the guys that soon will become a pro,” added Walton.

Brooks and his teammates will try to continue their ball-hawking against Florida State on Saturday in Tallahassee (Noon ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports), a two-and-a-half-hour drive from his hometown. Brooks’ maternal uncle, Corey Senior, played defensive line at Florida State in the late 1980’s, and his mom has been an FSU fan.

On Saturday, Brooks will square off against Florida State for the first time. His uncle, Corey Senior (above), played for FSU in the 1980s.

 

“My household was a Florida State family,” he admits. That’s only partially true – Brooks’ dad grew up in Detroit, and both he and LaMiles rooted for Michigan.

His family will be cheering for the Yellow Jackets this Saturday. And on the heels of a career game, LaMiles Brooks will look to keep the communication level high – while making plays that will give Georgia Tech fans something more to talk about.

Competitive Drive Initiative

In a unified endeavor, Georgia Tech, the Georgia Tech Foundation, Georgia Tech athletics and the Alexander-Tharpe Fund have come together to accelerate funding for student-athlete scholarships with the launch of the Competitive Drive Initiative. The initiative kicks off with the Accelerate GT Match Program, where any new gift to the A-T Fund’s Athletic Scholarship Fund made through Dec. 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Georgia Tech Foundation, up to $2.5 million. Should Accelerate GT reach its $2.5 million fundraising goal, the matching gift would result in a $5 million impact for Georgia Tech athletics. To learn more and to contribute online, visit atfund.org/accelerate.

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