Gil Brooks has built a national football power from scratch.
He has a head start at Camden Catholic.
Brooks turned St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia into a national-caliber program during an 18-year run that ended after the 2009 season.
Brooks, who was announced as Camden Catholic's new football coach Tuesday, said he's taking over a program that is far ahead of where St. Joseph's Prep was in 1992.
"In the years before I got there, they had a record of 9-43," Brooks said of St. Joseph's Prep. "That was a down program. Camden Catholic was a playoff team last year. We've got a good nucleus of returning players.
"Who knows? You do the best you can and see where it takes you."
Brooks, a South Jersey attorney, replaces Rick Brown, who was fired May 10.
Brooks served as Camden Catholic's defensive coordinator under Brown last season.
Brooks said he was "as surprised as anyone" by Brown's firing and initially did not plan to apply for the job.
"At first, I was not at all interested," Brooks said. "A few of the [returning players] were pretty persistent in encouraging me to look into it."
Camden Catholic could be among the top teams in South Jersey next season, with a strong senior class as well as top young players such as rising junior linebacker/running back Jarred Alwan and rising sophomore quarterback Tom Flacco, brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
Brooks coached St. Joseph's Prep to a 162-57-2 record from 1992-2009. His teams won five Catholic League titles and also won 55 league games in a row from 1999-2007.
Brooks' teams also had an overall winning streak of 35 games from 2001-03. His program gained national exposure by playing a schedule that included opponents such as Don Bosco Prep and Pittsburgh Central Catholic as well as Philadelphia-area powers such as Central Bucks West, North Penn, and Neshaminy.
Brooks said his Prep team was No. 3 in one national ranking in 2003 and No. 15 in 2004.
Brooks, 53, said he was close to finalizing his coaching staff. Brooks said the Irish would run a "multiple-I" offense that features some aspects of the spread formation, and a base 4-3 defense.
"Basically, my vision is to take the young men who are there and try to mold them into as good a team as they can be," Brooks said. "I want them to develop as young men. I want them to maximize their potential."
Brooks was one of 21 applicants for the position. Seven were interviewed in the first round by a seven-person selection committee, according to a statement from Camden Catholic. Four candidates were called back for second interviews.
Camden Catholic athletic director Marlene Grimes, a member of the selection committee, said Brooks' experience "will produce a smooth transition for the players and their families."
Another member of the selection committee, attorney Mike Madden, said Brooks was a "well-educated role model with a proven track record."