Photo: Pictured is Sardis head football coach B.J. Brooks and his wife Allie and daughters Maylee, Berkley and Olivia at a Hoover High School football game last season. (submitted photo)
By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
2008 Glencoe High School graduate B.J. Brooks grew up viewing Sardis as a rival he always wanted to beat. But Brooks’ perception of the Lions changed when he was assigned to Sardis to complete his student teaching.
“When I got placed here, I was furious,” Brooks said. “I said, ‘Man, I don’t like none of these guys. I don’t want to go up there, I don’t want to be at that school.’ When I got up there, I met Zach Wallace, Josh Wallace, Ty Harris, Clay Wright and a bunch of the guys who still work here today, and they were an awesome staff. The kids [at Sardis] were awesome, and I enjoyed the community. I just knew it was a special place with special people.”
Brooks is returning to Sardis City, this time as the school’s head football coach, as the Etowah County Schools Board of Education approved his hiring during its March meeting. He succeeds Chris Stephenson, who resigned after one season on Sand Mountain.
The 2022 Lions posted a 4-6 record in Stephenson’s only season at the helm. With a 3-2 record after a 12-7 road win at A.P. Brewer, the Lions lost four straight games, all in Class 5A, Region 7. The losing streak eliminated Sardis from state playoff contention. The Lions did finish the season with a 16-14 victory over Hokes Bluff, ending a four-game losing streak in the series.
Brooks spent the past three years as an assistant coach at Hoover High, and the Sardis job will be his first as a head football coach. He recently met with the players and coaching staff.
“I told them what I expect, and I expect to win,” he said. “I know it’s important to the seniors. This is the one chance I get with them, and we only have a few months to make it right, so I want it to be everything it possibly could be for them.
“I feel like I had a good meeting with the kids. I feel like they’re excited, and I want them to be excited, because I told them I’m going to bend over backwards for them. I’m going to serve them to the best of my ability. I’m going to give them everything I’ve got, and I’m expecting them to give everything they’ve got in return. I’m going to love them unconditionally and they’re going to be prayed for. That’s how it’s going to be.”
Brooks will continue teaching at Hoover but plans to be at Sardis on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to conduct workouts. He hopes to be at Sardis full-time by May 1. The Lions will conduct spring practice in May when the AHSAA allows teams 10 days of drills.
Brooks shared the “Four Faces” he intends to develop in the Sardis football program.
“The first one is being a person,” he said. “We want to have the best people possible. “The second thing is we want to build a complete student here. The best students usually have the best opportunities of making good money and providing resources back to the community.
“The third thing is the athlete. We share a lot of players here, and everybody wants the best players. So, we want to build overall athletes at Sardis High School.
“The fourth thing is the football player. We’re going to have these guys mentally and physically prepared to go out there and put a good product on the field on Friday nights. Ninety-nine percent of these kids that come in this program are not going to play college football, but they’re going to be a person the rest of their life, and that’s the most important thing.”
Brooks will face one of his mentors this coming season when he leads the Lions against Arab and head coach Lee Ozmint on September 8. Brooks played for Ozmint at Glencoe, where Ozmint served as head coach from 2006-2015.
“I actually went to Gadsden High School and played varsity as an eighth-grader, and Coach Ozmint was my defensive coordinator. When he got the Glencoe job, he knew I lived in Glencoe already, so he was kind of making little stops by my house and talking to my parents. He talked me into finishing at Glencoe, so I had Coach Ozmint for five years.”
Brooks was an All-Etowah County Schools selection at linebacker who led the state in tackles his senior year of 2007. He was named to the Class 3A Honorable Mention team follwing the seasson.
“Not to throw stones at anybody, but our offense was terrible that year, so [the defense] was on the field a lot and I had a lot of opportunities [to make tackles],” he said with a laugh.
Brooks also played basketball under Jason Pierce and baseball under Charlie Robertson at Glencoe.
Although Sardis competed in Class 3A, the Lions were in a different football region than Glencoe. Brooks pointed out that his Yellow Jackets were in the same baseball and basketball area as the Lions.
“In Dixie Youth baseball, it seemed like we always played Sardis for the chance to go to the state tournament,” said Brooks. “So, from a young age, I’ve gone against Sardis from a competitive standpoint.”
Brooks played a year of football at Jacksonville State before jumping into the coa-ching ranks.
“[Playing] college football is a hard, hard job. I just said, ‘Man, I still want to be around the game, and I know I want to coach.’”
Brooks’ first stop was at Cherokee County, where the 2009 Warriors went 15-0 and won the Class 4A state championship. He then coached under Joe Billingsley at Gadsden City from 2010-2012.
After Brooks completed his degree and became a teacher, his first job was at Oneonta. He helped the Redskins win the 2013 Class 4A state title before accepting the position of offensive coordinator at Etowah.
Brooks wound up spending four seasons in Attalla under Drew Noles. With Brooks on the staff, the Blue Devils went 33-14 and made the postseason all four years.
The 2017 squad went 11-2 and made it to the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
“Coach Noles has been with me through a lot of stuff, and he and his family just mean the world to me,” Brooks said. “To this day, (Noles’ son and former EHS quarterback) Andy Noles is still one of the only kids that I would say that I never saw take a play off. He always did exactly what he was supposed to do and was just a privilege and joy to coach.”
Brooks moved back to Gadsden City for the 2018 and 2019 seasons under Bart Sessions and Ali Smith. He then accepted an offer from Hoover coach Josh Niblett to coach the Bucs’ receivers, where he spent the past three seasons.
“When you get those calls, you typically don’t turn them down,” Brooks said.
Brooks and his wife, Allie, who is a kindergarten teacher at Glencoe Elementary School, live in Gadsden. The couple has three daughters.
Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.