View Full Version : Georgia Tech player goes to PI

12-11-04, 08:20 AM
500,000 circulation, about a million dollars of free PR for the Corps

Basketball player gung-ho to be Marine

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For much of Robert Brooks' life, basketball has been how people knew him and classified him.
He was Robert Brooks, the basketball player.
He was a star for his Saginaw, Mich., high school team, helping it to the 1999 state finals.
Highly recruited, he signed with Georgia Tech and last season was a key player for the Yellow Jackets in their run to the NCAA final game, where they lost to Connecticut.
Brooks, who will graduate today with a degree in business administration, is now among Tech's most ardent fans, cheering the country's No. 3-ranked team from behind the bench.
But two days after Christmas, as his former teammates play on, Brooks will go from the envied life of basketball player at a major college program to being a lowly recruit in the U.S. Marine Corps.
The star athlete will become a walk-on at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., arguably the toughest and most demanding of all military basic training facilities.
"I wanted a challenge. I wanted to be the best at whatever I did, and the Marine Corps will give me that opportunity," the 22-year-old said this week as he sat in the Edge Center on Tech's campus.
That Brooks would join the military was something of a surprise to his friends.
"I caught hell from people when I told them I was going in the Marine Corps and even more hell when I told them I was going in as an enlisted Marine," he said.
Although Brooks could have gone directly to Officer Candidate School by virtue of his college degree, he decided he wanted to experience life as an enlisted Marine before becoming an officer.
"I don't want to lead anybody if I haven't gone through what they've gone through. Boot camp is what makes the Marine," he said.

Ready for razzing

Boot camp is 13 draining weeks at Parris Island, where gravel-voiced drill instructors will probably single him out for his size — 6-foot-8, 210 pounds — his college degree and his desire to eventually become an officer.
Brooks knows that. Local Marine recruiters have tried to prepare him for the psychologically stressful, in-your-face training for which the Marines are known.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Risby, the Marine recruiter in Jonesboro who signed up Brooks, said, "He's totally different from a lot of the recruits we get. He has a drive. He's on a mission."
Brooks was scheduled to report to boot camp Jan. 10, but the date was moved up to Dec. 27 at his request.
"I'm ready to go," he said. "I'd leave today if I could."
Risby said he tried to persuade Brooks to go to Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Va., after graduation from Tech.
"He said he didn't want to be an officer right away," the recruiter said. "He said he wanted to start at the bottom and work his way up. He's an athlete, and he wanted the challenge."
As Risby and others have discovered, there is little that is typical about Brooks. Scratch the surface of this basketball player and you'll find a poet and artist who enjoys reading Shakespeare and Poe and discussing politics.
On a recent day, his backpack contained three books: Sun Tzu's classic "Art of War," "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius and "Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and the United States Marine Corps," by Frank and John Schaeffer.
"I like to read and I like information on anything. I don't care if it's about a wall socket or a light bulb or whatever," he said.
Even in high school, Brooks looked on learning as something to be embraced, not endured. While others around him tried to keep up their grades so they could play basketball, "I got the grades because I wanted the grades," he said.
He attributes much of that drive for education to his mother, Wittye Wilson, a city hall employee in Saginaw.
She also helped him learn to be realistic about his abilities as a basketball player.
"In my city there's nothing but basketball players, and so many of them don't have the grades, so colleges won't even take a look at them. For me, it's always been a balance between basketball and education," said Brooks.
For him, basketball was a route to a college education, not the NBA. He was recruited by dozens of colleges and eventually signed a letter of intent with Eastern Kentucky. After the coach left the school, Brooks' request to be released was granted. Two days later, Paul Hewitt, the Georgia Tech head basketball coach, was at his home.
Brooks said he toured Temple and Xavier before coming to Tech for an official visit. "I fell in love with the campus and the people and the school, and Atlanta sort of sells itself," he said.
Brooks stayed four years at Tech, even though he was an infrequent starter. But he had no problems with that. He contributed where he could and practiced hard.
"What made it so enjoyable last year was we played as a team," he said. "I'm a team player, and I feel like I contributed to what we did."
Brooks said he started thinking about joining the Marine Corps shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His older brother, Dujuan Yarger, was in the Army at the time and thought he might be sent to fight in Afghanistan. Brooks wanted to go with him, but not in the Army.
"The Marines are the only thing I ever thought about. The respect you get as a Marine is something that I wanted," he said.
He decided to stay in school. Then, last summer, he started seriously thinking about his future. When he showed up at the Jonesboro Marine recruiting office, it was like the recruiters had just won the lottery.

The dream recruit

Normally, recruiters have to beat the bushes for young men and women who qualify physically and scholastically. But here was a college graduate in excellent physical condition with a burning desire to be a Marine who just walked in and volunteered — no recruiting necessary.
"It's like he's already a Marine. He just hasn't gone through the training yet," said Risby.
When asked to list the reasons he wanted to join up, Brooks put patriotism first.
Brooks said he is disappointed in his generation. "They have no loyalty, no motivation, no dedication," he said.
Over the last two months, as Brooks finished his final class at Tech, he has assisted the Marine recruiters as they visited high schools trolling for potential recruits in Henry and Fayette counties.
Brooks said what he will miss about basketball is the fans. "I'll always have the team," he explained.
And when he becomes a Marine, he will have another team around him. Only this time, the stakes will be much higher than a national championship.