Maybe it’s a good psychological place to be. In Karekin Brooks’ mind, he’s always the small one, even if, as Ivy League tailbacks go, Brooks is kind of a bruiser, at 5-foot-11, a bit over 200 pounds.
“He is that big running back that you love,’’ said Penn coach Ray Priore, talking about style as much as measurables.
So what’s the little part?
Brooks has five brothers. All five are defensive line-sized guys. His father played at Auburn, and older brother Kelly played at Mercer, going 275 pounds. Karekin is next, followed by Djimon, a Georgia Tech defensive tackle, 305 pounds. Djimon will be on the field Saturday at the Linc against Temple while Karekin is with the Quakers up at Lafayette, both 3:30 starts.
Even Karekin’s little brothers aren’t little. Kamian didn’t play in college, but he played high school ball at 230 pounds. Jabari, now a high school senior, is another big one, 6-3 and 290, with Division I offers coming in.
Finally, there’s 11-year-old Javyn. He’s smaller than Karekin, but probably not for long.
“He plays offensive line and defensive line,’’ Karekin said.
Karekin Brooks, from Marietta, Ga., remembers always being outside: “Every weekend, we used to play Bust ‘Em in the backyards. We’d be playing football, basketball, baseball. We’d ride bikes up and down hills, jumping off hills.”
All that translated to first-team all-region at George Walton High, and a contact from a Penn assistant coach who had noticed him.
“He called, liked my tape, told me to research Penn,’’ Brooks said.
His research didn’t need to be much more than going home and telling his mother about the call. She knew what the Ivy League was.
“My mom was so excited, she wanted to commit right on the spot,’’ Brooks said. “So I did.”
“We had watched him play big-time high school football,’’ Priore said. “A very, very patient runner. We knew he was talented. How talented, you never know.”
They do now. In last Saturday’s opener at Delaware, Brooks, known as KK to teammates and coaches, ran 28 times for 158 yards and added three catches for 20 more. If a late two-point conversion pass to Brooks had been just a few inches higher off the ground, Priore believes Brooks would have had another catch, a potential game-winner. When the conversion failed, Delaware had held off the upset, 28-27.
“He runs with his eyes, really has great vision,’’ Priore said. “He made some plays where holes were stuffed and he was able to bounce, seeing it.”
None of this is new. Brooks has the second- and sixth-highest Penn single-game rushing performances, with 268 at Lehigh in 2017 and 246 against Brown last season. Pretty good considering the Quakers have played 1,394 games in their history, more than any other NCAA program.
Saturday’s performance pushed Brooks to 11th all-time in rushing, with 2,002 yards. He’s certainly within range of Penn’s all-time top three, since third is 2,717 yards.
He’s aware of all that?
“No, sir,’’ Brooks said. “I don’t really think about the statistical aspect. I just go out there and play.”
That’s a typical enough conversation with Brooks.
“Yes, ma’am. No, ma’am. Yes, sir. No, sir,’’ Priore said. “He is as Southern-raised as they get.”
Also, a team captain this season as a senior.
“When your captain is the hardest worker, leads by example in everything he does, it really sets the stage for everybody else,’’ Priore said.
As the second oldest, that leadership role started at home?
“They don’t really listen as much,’’ Brooks said of all those brothers.
Why is that? Isn’t it obvious?