The thought hit me like a ton of bricks around mile four as I walked around one of Minnesota's famed lakes this past weekend. Compared to a year ago, this walk was ridiculously easy. The difference in a year? A proper diet and hard work at the gym. It wasn't long before my mind made a connection to the boys in deep steel blue and battle red.
If you have kept up with the Houston Texans during their shorts and shirts season - and let's face it, we're all diehard junkies, so we have - then you know the player getting the most hype, as far as making a leap, is projected starting right guard Brandon Brooks.
Typically, I don't buy into any shorts talk. Any news about players not in pads and without contact doesn't amount to much. This isn't a game situation and, really, this league is all about what happens on those 16-24 game days. However, I do buy into the Brooks hype now.
For the unaware, Brooks has slimmed down from 355 pounds to a svelte 325. After being the heaviest Texan ever drafted - pauses to let those planetoid nose tackle lusters sigh wantingly - Brooks worked hard this offseason to change how he ate and prepared.
If you've ever made the effort to lose weight, you already know what Brooks has felt. I alluded to it at the start of this post. For the last year or so, I've changed my diet and workout regimen and have seen the light, so to speak. I'm lighter on my feet, able to move around easier, and much stronger than my year-ago self. My stamina and endurance are streets ahead of a year ago, I'm able push further, and the physical differences are night and day. I carry the weight better, I look fitter, and I see the same in photos of Brandon Brooks.
For a guard, I imagine Brooks feels it much easier to bend his knees and move around. He probably finds practices in the Texas heat easier and has improved his endurance for those late game offensive line bulldozer fests that we're all fond of. He's probably going to be getting to the second level just a bit quicker to seal off his lane. Not only is Brooks quicker, at no expense to his strength, but the game should be slowing down for him, too. For a rookie who showed flashes, there's no wonder why people have their eye on him.
Brooks may still be 325, but he lost 30 pounds. This could be the difference between missing a block on a linebacker that would've sprung a run or not being worn down in the fourth quarter or being able to quickly slide and pick up that stunting defensive tackle. I won't jump and say Brooks should be on an All-Pro watch list, but I don't think it'll take long for him to demonstrate what his hard work enables him to do now and establish himself as plus to the offensive line for the next decade.