TU Run Game Leans Heavily on Union Grad
By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
EXPLOSIVE RUNNER: Former Union star Shamari Brooks carries the ball in his role as running back for the University of Tulsa, while being pursued by Connecticut defenders in a game against the Huskies on Nov. 3.
Photo courtesy University of Tulsa Sports Information Department
Just a few years ago, Shamari Brooks was making big gains for Union, helping the Redskins win the Class 6AI state championship as a senior in 2016.
Now, as a college sophomore, Brooks is a key member of the University of Tulsa backfield, sharing time with fellow running back Corey Taylor , another local product out of Holland Hall.
Brooks became the second fastest running back to reach 1,000 yards in school history early this season against Temple, his 13th start. He missed the Houston game on Oct. 4 due to an injury, but, ran for 100 yards when he returned the following week against South Florida.
At the close of the 2018 season, Brooks had rushed for 1,654 yards and 17 touchdowns and has eight 100-plus yard rushing games in his 20 career games.
You can bet that Brooks has embraced his role in the Tulsa rushing game.
“It’s awesome,” Brooks said. “Just being in my hometown and playing for the city I grew up in. It’s an accomplishment and I’m happy to be in Tulsa, because I’m playing for my hometown.
“I always like to have the pressure on me,” he said. “If there is a big play that needs to be made, I love to have the ball in my hands. So, it’s always a good comforting feeling to know that the coaches can rely on me.”
Brooks’ best performances have come against UConn. He had a season-high 151 yards on 17 carries against the Huskies on Nov. 3. In their 2017 meeting in Storrs, Conn., he had a career-best 164 yards and two touchdowns.
“Shamari is an impactful player,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “Probably our most explosive player, if not one of the most explosive players we have offensively. Finding ways to get him involved in the game, get the ball in his hands and allow him to do what he does best, we have to continue to find those opportunities for him, because he can impact the game in a hurry.”
Keeping up with Union
Brooks stays on top of what his alma mater is doing. He attended the game at Chapman Stadium last year when Union came up short in its bid to repeat when it lost to Owasso.
“Yeah, that was a rough one,” Brooks said. “I sat in the front row and watched my boys. They battled back towards the end, but just barely slipped up. That was a talented Owasso team.”
Brooks said he also liked the fact that Union and Jenks had a streak going where it was either team winning state in the largest classification in Oklahoma, and it hurt to see the trend end last year.
As for this year’s Union team, Brooks acknowledged that it struggled early in the season, but believed they would be a different team in the playoffs. The team was, but, came up short as Jenks scored a game-winning TD on the last play to win 27-24 over Union in the Class 6AI semifinals.
Persevering Through the Hard Times
Union wins week in and week out, which Brooks was used to during his time there. But the past two seasons at Tulsa have been a different story. The Golden Hurricane have struggled with just five wins in the past two seasons, including a 3-9 finish in 2018.
In an interview the week of the game against Connecticut on Nov. 3, Brooks said he keeps the team positive week-by-week. At that point, Tulsa had just lost fourth-quarter leads in three games during October.
“I keep the seniors up first, trying to help them finish strong, not making a selfish type of thing and keeping everyone around me first, and keeping myself second,” Brooks said.
“We just have to get together as a unit and talk to each other. We have to execute and get that extra drive that we need to finish the fourth quarter,” he added.
Although it did not win the rest of its games as Brooks and the rest of the team hoped, Tulsa did win two of its last four, against Connecticut and the season finale against .
“We wanted to finish this year strong for our seniors, the staff and everybody around us,” Brooks said.
Although it loses some key starters to graduation, the Brooks and the rest of the Golden Hurricane will look to rebound in 2019.