On film, in person, even in terms of the whispers that follow Notre Dame incoming freshman running back Chris Tyree about whether he’s robust enough to impact the Irish early in his career, it all has a familiar ring to Reggie Brooks.
And the former Irish All-American running back is confident it will have a familiar ending as well.
“He kind of reminds me of me,” the 49-year-old Brooks said of the four-star prospect from Chester, Va.
“Not the tallest guy. Not certainly the biggest, because he’s 5-9, 5-10 —180 (pounds) or 185. That was about the size I was coming into Notre Dame. But I love his speed, his agility, his ability to stop and start.
“He’s not just a straight-line guy. He has very good hops and good vision. And one thing I think I would say about him more than anything, I like him out of the backfield and his ability to catch the ball. Very personable young man and someone I think can win here.”
Sizing up Notre Dame’s roster is something Brooks will always make time for, but his plate recently got a little more full.
In late April, Brooks was named the executive director of the Holtz’s Heroes Foundation (holtzsheroes.org), the rebranded and expanding Lou Lad’s service organization inspired by former ND coaching icon Lou Holtz and carried out by his players since its inception in 2008.
Until the end of fall semester, Brooks will be pulling double duty, as he’ll remain in his role with Notre Dame as assistant athletics director of athletics alumni relations, though as he points out there’s quite a bit of overlap.
“My time will continue to be spent supporting our alumni and doing outreach there,” he said.
Eventually, though, he’ll transition to Texas, where wife Cristina is serving as the city of Fort Worth’s first diversity and inclusion director.
Brooks’ full focus to the foundation will begin at that point.
“The program was well-established, working well and it’s doing a lot of good,” Holtz’s Heroes Foundation president Tom Galloway said of the organization’s name change, burgeoning mission and hiring of Brooks.
“But we wanted to do more.”
Among the initiatives Brooks is most excited about are the existing commitment to grant/scholarship money for children of Holtz Era players, the Bobby Satterfield Hardship Fund for former players’ families in need, the Bread of Life Drive to support food pantries all over the country and internationally, and the EnVision Centers community outreach programs.
“It’s also about being able to assist guys in the various functions that they do now,” Brooks said. “Personally, one of the things that comes to mind was Jerome Bettis. He just had a fundraiser to promote technology to assist the kids that don’t have laptops and tablets and things like that.
“Little things like that you don’t think about, because it’s not something most of us really worry about, but with COVID-19, there are so many people that were forced into a tough situation academically, because they didn’t have access to online learning because they didn‘t have the technology to assist doing that.
“Jerome helped make that happen for some of them.”
As far as how the pandemic has affected Brooks professionally, it’s been mostly an inconvenience.
“I’m normally so focused on getting people back to campus,” he said. “Now that campus is closed, it’s more important that I take campus to them.
“I’ve gone back and done some things around the office very sparingly, but it’s a ghost town there. That is so far from what I know Notre Dame to be campus-wise. It’s very eerie, so I’m hopeful that we can bring the students back to campus for in-person learning.”
Brooks said he feels relatively healthy and has no pre-existing conditions, but that wife Cristina has asthma and so do several of their children.
“So me going out and contracting it and bringing it home is always a something that I’m conscious of,” he said. “Sheltering in place is not fun at all. I like getting out and engaging. I look forward to being able to do that again soon.”
He’s always looking forward to having a Notre Dame football season in the fall, though he can’t say what that will look like or whether it will start on time.
When it does, though, Brooks — who played from the Irish from 1989-92 — plans to keep his eye on Tyree.
“How quickly he can get up to speed in pass protection is going to be a key in how much he plays,” Brooks said.
“If he’s going to see the field for any significant period, it’s going to really require him to hone in on pass protection, understanding how things are developing in front of him and then getting in there and sticking his nose in there.
“If he can do that, things are going to fall into place for him quickly.”