CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The food at Recovery Sports Grille is pretty tough to turn down. As the plates of food were placed in front of the Marshall University football players as they signed posters on a Friday night, it was tempting to pluck a chicken tender for yourself. When you saw the size of the players getting ready to chow down, though, that temptation vanished quickly.
One of those players refused to give into those temptations himself. For him, the chicken could fly the coop. But looking at the leaner, meaner Blake Brooks, it was easy to see how pushing away that plate has made such a difference.
Listed at 325 pounds on the spring roster, Brooks said he usually carried about 315 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame as he started the transition from defensive line to offensive line. Now the South Charleston High graduate is down to 300 pounds, a big drop from the 350 pounds he said he weighed when he started his college football career at Division II Fairmont State.
"I got my priorities in order and football's really important," the redshirt junior said. "I've just got to do it for my coaches and my team."
The 2009 Hunt Award winner as West Virginia's top high school lineman, Brooks started in Fairmont when the Division I offers weren't coming. But he knew Division I was the level at which he wanted to play, so he transferred to Huntington as a walk-on.
Last season, he earned a scholarship as a defensive lineman, playing in four games and recording one tackle. Now with the offensive line, he wants to see if he can crack the guard rotation on one of the Football Bowl Subdivision's most explosive offenses.
Yet, to do that, he had to be in top shape. It's not just defenses that can get exhausted from that high-tempo scheme. Averaging 90 plays per game can take its toll on offensive players, too, and carrying even 325 pounds can make fitting in tough.
"It's hard to maneuver," he said. "Even at the 330s and the 320s and the 315s, it's hard. When you weigh 300 or less and you're moving in a fast-paced offense, you move a lot better, you run a lot better and everything's easier."
Making a major lifestyle change like trying to cut 25 pounds in a matter of months is no easy task. It's one that takes discipline and sacrifice. But Brooks was motivated. Missing out on a bowl game despite showcasing an offense that averages more than 40 points per game - as the Thundering Herd did last season - is enough to rev anyone's engine.