When Keith Patterson came over from Utah State to take the defensive coordinator position at Texas Tech, Jordyn Brooks was the first player that he talked to.
Rumors were swirling that Brooks might leave Texas Tech, and their conversation turned into a heart-to-heart. Patterson ended up asking Brooks what he hoped to become.
Brooks shrugged his shoulders and responded “All-Big 12.” Patterson immediately knew that goal was too modest.
“I said, ‘What about All-Big 12? What about All-American? What about the Butkus Award? What about walking across that stage on the first day (of the NFL Draft),’” Patterson recalled to Red Raider Nation.
Patterson oversaw the defense as Brooks made 108 tackles in 2019, 20 of which were for a loss. The national attention for Brooks rolled in after he posted 19 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in Texas Tech’s upset of No. 21 Oklahoma State on October 5.
After the season, Brooks was named an All-Big 12 First Team and All-American Second Team selection.
On April 23, the Seattle Seahawks selected Brooks with the 27th pick of the first round of the NFL Draft. Brooks had officially accomplished three of those four lofty goals, and perhaps could’ve made it a clean sweep and won the Butkus Award if he hadn’t battled injuries at the end of the season.
Draft night was the culmination of Brooks’ outstanding season. He’d officially gotten confirmation that he was good enough to play football at the world’s highest level, and locked in a rookie contract that will pay him up to $12.2 million.
“It was surreal for both of us,” Patterson said. “Everything that we both verbalized and everything that he could become, became a reality… I couldn’t even go to sleep. I felt like I got drafted.”
Patterson recalls Brooks coming into his office after the season, in disbelief that his new coach had foreseen his breakout season.
“All I did was just see something in Jordyn that maybe he didn’t see in himself,” Patterson said.
Come draft season, NFL teams got in touch with Patterson to learn about Brooks from his coach’s perspective. While Patterson had positive conversations with coaches and executives from several teams, he did not see the Seahawks’ first round selection of Brooks coming. In fact, he wasn’t watching the draft when the pick was announced and found out about it from his wife’s screaming at the television. Brooks called Patterson shortly afterwards.
“It was very moving,” Patterson said. “You could hear the excitement in his voice.”
Part of the reason why Brooks’ special night elicited such an emotional response from Patterson is because of the appreciation he has for Brooks as a person.
Brooks is always trying to make himself better, and during the season he got his study hall work out of the way by Tuesday so he would have time for extra meetings with Patterson later in the week. Over time, linebackers Riko Jeffers and Xavier Benson followed Brooks’ lead and came to see Patterson for “meetings before the meeting.”
Brooks remained humble while enjoying the success of his senior season. After the first game of the year, Patterson asked him to critique his own play and write up a self-evaluation. Following a game in which he recorded 11 tackles as Texas Tech blew out Montana State, Brooks came back to Patterson with four paragraphs of mostly criticism.
“If you read the description of his own performance, you would’ve thought that he didn’t play well,” Patterson said. “He had a humbleness about him that allowed him to achieve greatness.”
That humility should come in handy at Brooks’ next stop, where he will arrive as the clear-cut No. 2 middle linebacker. The Seahawks have six-time Pro Bowler Bobby Wagner at the position, who’s established himself as perhaps the best middle linebacker in football.
Patterson views the situation as a positive. Brooks will still see plenty of the field, and Wagner’s coverage skills allow Seattle to deploy Brooks where he excels most, at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Moreover, Brooks will get the chance to learn from one of the game’s best, on and off the field. When the 29-year-old Wagner retires or moves on to another team, Brooks may be in place to take over.
“What a great fit,” Patterson said in front of a Jordyn Brooks-themed Zoom background. “He’s gonna be able to sit there and model his preparation and his approach to the game after (Wagner.)”
Sixteen months after that conversation in Patterson’s office, Brooks has numerous accolades under his belt and much more money in his bank account. In his senior season, he’d accomplished much more than making the All-Big 12 Team.