NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Keyon Brooks admits his 2019 season isn’t anything like he envisioned.
“It’s been a pretty interesting year so far,” he said, “but I love it.”
A 6-foot-1, 200-pound true freshman, Brooks came to Nashville as one of the latest additions to the program’s 2019 signing class. And he began fall camp not honestly expecting to see the field given Vandy’s depth at the position.
Injuries to a few key veterans, however, moved Brooks up the depth chart. He made his debut at Purdue on Sept. 7, played the following week against LSU and, Sept. 28, announced his presence to the world with a 61-yard touchdown run against Northern Illinois.
“At the start of the season, coming in as the third-string back, I wasn’t expecting to play a lot,” Brooks said. “One of our running backs got hurt and next thing you know I’m up on the depth chart and each game I’m getting a little more playing time, getting more reps, getting a better feel for the game.
“At the start of the season, things were a little difficult, a little hard coming into college and expecting to know everything right away. But again, as the season progressed I started to get the hang of everything so now everything is coming together.”
First collegiate touchdown. 🚨
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) September 30, 2019
Brooks rushed for more than 3,600 yards during his prep career and scored 36 touchdowns. As a senior he found the end zone 21 times, including five scores in one game.
A graduate of Kennesaw Mountain High School outside of Atlanta, Brooks had verbally committed elsewhere during the summer of 2018. A scholarship offer from Vandy changed the plans for the speedy running back.
“It was pretty confusing and stressful because I had a lot going on,” he said. “I’m expected to go to one place and another school offers and now it’s like, ‘OK, I need to look and see what I have.’ Then decommitting a couple days later – and then signing on signing day? Committing the same day? It’s been a whirlwind, but it was also a fun process.”
Halfway through the 2019 season and Brooks is now the team’s primary backup at the running back position behind senior Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Brooks has 15 carries for 85 yards – a 5.67 average – in the five games he’s played.
He admitted there was a little trepidation at first trying to develop a relationship with one of the SEC’s best running backs, but now considers Vaughn a big brother and is glad to give the senior a breather when needed. Brooks also said he pays close attention to everything his position mate is doing and continues to work on his own pass-protection blocking to try to become a more complete back like his senior teammate.
As for being a college running back and possibly the future for the Commodores at the position, Brooks, who can usually be spotted during pregame warmups dancing with his teammates, had an eyebrow-raising response when asked what his favorite part of the early phase of his career has been.
“Honestly, I’d have to say (weight) lifting,” he grinned. “(Vanderbilt head strength) coach (James) Dobson makes it fun. We have music playing, everyone is hyped – that’s the best part to me.”