49ers May Have Struck Gold In Ahmad Brooks

Greg FoliakiContributor IApril 14, 2010

Ahmad Brooks had his most productive NFL season in 2009 since being drafted in the Supplemental Draft in 2006.  Brooks started his NFL career as a middle linebacker, and was then converted to a pass rusher in the 3-4 defense.  

The 49ers recognized his potential and recently signed him to a two year contract worth over 4.2 million dollars. 

The 49ers may have struck gold in finding a new role for Brooks.  Nobody is more thrilled than Ahmad Brooks himself.  Brooks has once again found a way to steer back his career into football's relevance.

Ahmad grew up with an early advantage.  His father, Perry Brooks played in the NFL eight seasons for the Washington Redskins.  Ahmad was exposed to football at a very young age.  Highly scouted coming out of high school, he was named USA Today's National Defensive Player of the Year in 2001. 

He then played his college football at the University of Virginia.  He immediately made an impact by breaking Virginia's freshman tackle record with 117 tackles in 2003.  Brooks followed up with an even more impressive sophomore season by racking up 90 tackles, eight sacks, and two interceptions.  He was also a semi-finalist for the Dick Butkus award that year.

Entering his junior year, Brooks was regarded as one of the country's most talented players.  NFL scouts labeled him as 1st round talent.  Football experts began comparing Brooks to NFL linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lavar Arrington because of his rare size and speed.  Standing 6'3" 250lbs, Brooks's unusual size was a headache for Offensive Coordinators to scheme against. 

Unfortunately his junior year did not live up to the hype.  Hampered by injuries, he only played six games.  His NFL stock took a dip after concerns about his weight and his commitment to the team.

In the beginning of 2006, Brooks was dismissed from the University of Virginia along with two other defensive players on the team.  The University reported that Brooks was kicked off the team due to an off the field transgression.

Brooks decided his next destination would be the NFL.

The Cincinnati Bengals used a 3rd round selection to acquire Ahmad Brooks in the NFL Supplemental Draft on June 2006.  He had a decent NFL rookie season, seeing action in 12 games and five starts.  He ended the season with 46 tackles and one sack.

Ahmad Brooks was named the starting middle linebacker for the Bengals the very next year.  Unfortunately, he tore a groin muscle in the second game of the regular season.  He was placed on injury reserve, ultimately ending his year. 

The next year Brooks was charged with assault in another off the field incident. The Bengals released Brooks shortly after.

The San Francisco 49ers picked up Brooks on waivers during the 2008 pre-season. 

The 49ers picked up Brooks with the intent to use him as the "TED" linebacker in the 3-4 system.  They also signed veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes that year and Brooks couldn't beat out the veteran Spikes for the starting job.  Brooks never saw any playing time throughout the 2008 season. 

In 2009, Ahmad fought for more playing time.  By week 12, Brooks had taken over all of Manny Lawson's 3rd down duties and was converted into a pure pass rusher.  Brooks saw action in 14 games taking credit for 20 tackles, a career high six sacks, and four forced fumbles.  His four forced fumbles were a team tying record for most by any 49er linebacker in a season.

Ahmad Brooks entered the 2010 offseason as a restricted free agent. The team tendered Brooks with a 2nd round tender.  On April 2nd, Ahmad Brooks and the 49ers came into terms with a two year contract.  The deal worked out for both parties.  Brooks will be making more money and the 49ers won’t have to commit to a long term deal, giving Brooks the opportunity to excel in the 3-4 defense.

It seems that Mike Singletary always gets the best out of his linebackers.  Nobody is as excited as Mike, as he continues to find ways to get his players to achieve more than expected.  "We are happy that Ahmad will be with us going forward", says Head Coach Mike Singletary.  "He made the strides and showed us what he is capable of.  We expect Ahmad to continue to progress in coming years".

The San Francisco 49ers are confident that Brooks will improve as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense.  And as a former middle linebacker, I doubt that dropping into coverage will be unfamiliar waters for Brooks. 

His versatility gives him the opportunity to vie for a starting job at either outside linebacker position.  At 6'3" 260lbs, Brooks provides the perfect combination of size, speed, and versatility. 

However, Brooks needs to contain his weight and stay out of trouble.  If he's able to stay motivated, I believe that he will eventually be named the starter at weakside outside linebacker (WOLB).  Hopefully he rewards the 49ers for investing the time and patience in him.