On Thursday night, tentative first rounders waited anxiously for “the call” on live television.
Linebacker Jordyn Brooks wasn’t one of them.
Brooks was cooking pasta with his family in Dallas, TX when a relative told him the phone was ringing. He rushed to pick it up and was shocked by the team on the other end of the line.
It was the Seattle Seahawks, a defensive player’s dream destination.
“I wasn’t surprised about the first round, I was surprised the Seahawks came and got me,” Brooks confessed in his first interview as a Seahawk. “I hadn’t talked to them since the combine, so I wasn’t really expecting them to pick me. But I’m very grateful and excited to get down there in Seattle.”
There’s a reason we were just as blindsided by the unexpected pick. General manager John Schneider didn’t want to tip off the competition about the talent they saw in Brooks.
“When people aren’t talking about players, that’s when you get pretty nervous,” Schneider explained during a press conference Thursday night. “And Jordyn was clearly one of those players. At the combine, I totally stayed away from him. I didn’t talk to him at the combine. I just evaluated all the different interviews.”
Mel Kiper agreed. Although Brooks wasn’t on everyone’s draft board, the veteran draft analyst evaluated him at No. 3 amongst linebackers and No. 32 in the draft, yet expected him to go in the second round, perhaps even third.
For those that believe the relatively unknown Brooks was a reach at 27, they simply don’t see what Carroll, Schneider, and even Kiper have seen throughout the draft process. Schneider believes that the Seahawks took “the best player on the board," one that possesses that elusive quality touted among Seahawks management: grit.
“He’s just got that grit that we always talk about and that edge, that chip on his shoulder.” Schneider elaborated.
Carroll confirmed that Brooks is not only the kind of player, but the kind of person, the Seahawks want in their locker room.
“We just found a guy that could check all of the boxes,” Carroll said. “We love his attitude, like John said, it’s just his mentality.”
The kind of mentality Brooks has in one forged by determination in the face of hardship. Like all extraordinary NFL players, Brooks walked a difficult path to where he stands today.
Brooks was born in Dallas, TX, the youngest of seven children alongside his twin sister. The family eventually moved to Houston, where the family experienced homelessness for some time. Carroll reflected on his conversation with Brooks when they discussed this challenging chapter in his life.
“He talked about it being a hardship and it was something that was most memorable to him.” Carroll said. “They had to get through it and find a way. He came across like they were able to handle it, they stuck together as a family and figured it out and made it through it. I think they were stronger for it. It really seems like he has learned lessons along the way that has made him the kind of person that he is.”
Brooks had a lifelong passion for the sport, but football became so much more: it was a therapeutic release for anxiety and stress. Football also meant family—his teammates became his “brotherhood.”
“It was a chance for me to go out there and release whatever anger I had built up; I could release that on the football field,” Brooks said.
Raiders RB Josh Jacobs was also homeless during his youth, a hardship that inevitably motivated him to become a star on the Raider’s burgeoning offense and a 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Similarly, Brooks’ experiences seem to have only strengthened his demonstrated core values of faith, family, and football.
“This is a blessing from God,” Brooks said when asked about his opportunity to learn from defensive greats like K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner.
Brooks is not only inspired by his faith; it’s a source of great confidence in his capabilities. Much like teammate Russell Wilson, he frequently shares inspirational Bible quotes on his social media.
“I see myself as a football player, a player that can do anything,” Brooks said. “It’s my God-given ability that I’ve been blessed with.”
Another source of strength for Brooks is his mother, who Schneider referred to as a “real rock” when discussing the linebacker’s homelessness.
After speaking with her on the phone, Carroll said, “She came across real strong and promised me that he would bring his best and give the program everything he had.”
To have the respect and admiration of Seahawks management through brief meetings and phone calls speaks volumes of the character of the Brooks family. But eight years ago, it was young Jordyn who was admiring the Seahawks and their "Legion of Boom."
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Brooks said of their 2013 Super Bowl-winning season. “They played the Broncos, and I think they won the game like 40-8. I just remember it being a hard-nosed defensive game for the Seahawks side. I just remember looking at that defense the whole year basically. With the defensive backs that they had at the time, and of course Bobby Wagner, and the guys they had up front. It was something special to watch. I really got my eyes on Bobby Wagner. I remember a lot from that season and it makes me excited to come here.”
Bobby Wagner remains an unparalleled defensive weapon, and Brooks has been looking up to him since he entered the NFL in 2012.
“He’s been one of the best linebackers in the league, so to get a chance to learn from him, play beside him, feed off of him, pick his brain, I think it’s an incredible opportunity for me.”
The first person to call Carroll after the pick? It was Wagner, who asked for Brooks’ phone number. Apparently Wagner also wants to pick the brain of his potential protegé, proving it’s never too early to start working on next season.
The native Texan got his start at Stratford High School in Houston, TX, the alma mater of former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. After a successful high school campaign, Brooks attended Texas Tech and played with the Red Raiders for four seasons. Brooks won several awards and nominations during his collegiate career, including a Butkus Award nomination.
Carroll interviewed Brooks during the combine, and both sides came away feeling good about the interview. Brooks said he got “good vibes” following a formal interview with Carroll, and Carroll lauded Brooks’ “hard-nosed work ethic kind of mentality.”
Despite doubts by Seahawks fans focused on edge rushers, Schneider and Carroll were adamant about how everyone in their organization felt conviction in picking Brooks. Carroll put it simply: “The overall package that he presents, his sincerity, his work ethic, his consistency, his clarity and his commitment and what this game means to him, how he has put together a mentality that comes from his upbringing and the tough times and the challenges and a great leader from his mom that gave him great direction.”
“If you can hear, we can’t say enough good stuff about him and who this kid is and what he’s all about,” Carroll continued. “We’re so excited to add a guy like that to our club… Our guys are going to embrace him immediately because he comes from the right stuff.”
It seems Brooks agrees.
“I think the fans and the organization are getting a heck of a football player,” he insisted.
If we’ve learned anything after a decade with Schneider and Carroll, it’s that grit is how Seahawks players achieve greatness. The future shines bright for Seattle’s first-round favorite, a player as gritty as they come.