Except in those years when we won the very last game in the college season, this first week of summer elicited consistently strong feelings. I would almost always be anxious to get back to work determined that next year would our year. We would be the one to ride and defend like Yale, get an early lead like Wesleyan and battle for 60 minutes like the Dukes of James Madison. I was convinced that our players certainly felt the same way and that nothing would get in the way of our pursuit of this goal.
Over the course of a long summer, that singular focus losing some of its edge. Internships, summer school, the opinions of parents and friends, the start of a new academic year, the most committed players graduating and a new group coming on board — it would contribute to the dulling effect.
I am here to tell you that the decisions you make today will have significant bearing on whether your 2019 season will have a different ending. Virginia women’s coach Julie Myers told me recently that the James Madison women lifted three times per week at 7:00 a.m. throughout the season and did not miss a single session. She also mentioned that she was not certain that her team was prepared to make the same commitment.
How about your team? It's not just the question of working hard or, harder.
Our 1999 NCAA Championship team is likely still the hardest working team of my extended career. At the same time, we won additional championships with teams that did not make the same effort. The question is “What does your team need to do?” It could be morning workouts or dedication in the weightroom, physical conditioning, social behavior away from the locker room or group dynamics in the locker room. It could be all that and more.
I have often spoken about the essence of this endeavor being a coach convincing his team and/or teammates convincing each other that it is worth whatever the sacrifices and commitments are required for success. It will certainly require a brand of individual fearlessness to stand up in front of your teammates and describe an uncompromising journey ahead. Yes, it will seem hard — hard reminds us that the task is special. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it. I can assure you that it will be facing up to the daunting mountain of anticipation that will occupy most of your time. My good friend, Hesiod, the Greek poet, wrote in 700 B.C. "Badness you can get easily, in quantity: the road is smooth and it lives close by. But in front of excellence the immortal gods have put sweat, and long and steep is the way to it, and rough at first. But when you come to the top, then it is easy, even though it is hard."
That ’99 Virginia team had to overcome 27 years of hearing how they were not tough enough to win. The willingness to work harder every day and to engage in a complicated discussion to manage behavior away from the locker room proved to be the formula required of that team for success. No one knew that beforehand, however, and the commitments made in fall and winter could not guarantee a championship in spring. What it did was give us a chance. We fought through the decisions, but I can still recall vividly in the parking lot after capturing the championship, senior defenseman Courtlend Weisleder saying to me, “That wasn’t so hard!”
While there may have been some momentary indecision about whether to hit him or hug him, his reaction is the essence of what I am trying to describe to you. The commitment comes first, then (maybe) the reward. You need to convince yourself and your teammates that this leap of faith is worth the risk. Do you have enough time between now and the climax of your season next May?
You have exactly the time you need, if you start today.
This was a surreal world Timmy Brooks was about to enter. He was no longer the square-jawed, rugged-looking, wholesome lacrosse player from the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia. This was a teenager being escorted by a court bailiff through a dark underground tunnel.
Awaiting Brooks on the other side, amid the chasing sea of cameras, was an altered short, gray school bus insulated with mesh caging. Brooks, dressed in a crisp blue suit jacket and khaki pants, walked two rows back, past 12 county-blue issued uniforms, and sat looking straight ahead at rusted metal with handcuffs on his wrists and shackles on his ankles, wondering about his future.
The questions bounded in his head: What will this be like? Will I get beat up? Will I be raped? Can I make it through this? How different will I be when I get out? How did I get to a place where it was OK to illegally sell marijuana? How did I get to the heart-wrenching place where it was OK to lie to my parents? And how did I get to a place where I was OK to manipulate, lie and repel everything I was taught by coaches, teachers and a caring family?
Timmy Brooks, then a 19-year-old seemingly with the world in his hands, was about to enter prison, sentenced to nine to 23 months in county jail, with five years’ probation after pleading guilty to five felonies for selling weed. In February 2015, he was depicted as “Timothy C. Brooks,” strung across international news outlets as a tragic cautionary tale
Today, Brooks, 24, is a senior attackman and two-time USILA All-American at Cabrini, nestled in verdant Radnor, just outside Philadelphia. He graduated on May 19, Suma Cum Laude with a degree in business management and was presented with the Girard-Goodwin Scholar-Athlete Award for the highest GPA of all male athletes at the school. This Sunday, he will play on Lincoln Financial Field with the Cavaliers in the Division III NCAA Title Game.
That gets lost when you Google “Timothy C. Brooks.”
The same cameras that followed him during his perp walk are nowhere to be found after his rehabilitation. For a week, his home was besieged with TV trucks looking for an angle on a high-profile case.
Brooks credits the worst thing that ever happened to him turning out in many ways to save his life. For the first time since he’s been out and back to doing something he’s loved — playing lacrosse — Brooks spoke to Inside Lacrosse about his journey: where it started, where it is and where it’s going.
He's also light years aways from the moment when the two lives he was living collided into one.
A 2013 grad of Haverford School (Pa.), the high school national powerhouse where he was once a captain, Brooks is apologetic, tranquil, remorseful and grateful for everyone that stood behind him when it was not so easy to do so. Above all, he carries a strong, sobering message to anyone willing to listen about the ills of drug use and selling drugs.
That includes speaking to teams and schools, something he’s done over 20 times, about his personal experience, strength and hope.
“If what happened to me didn’t happen, it was inevitable I was heading down a path where there was no good resolution,” says Brooks, who, prior to being arrested in April 2014, had no criminal record. “There’s a saying in the world of recovery that if you do what you did long enough, you end up in one of three places: jail, (mental) institutions or death. I was definitely heading 100 percent in those directions.”
“I saw more drugs in jail than I did when I was dealing drugs. I watched people pack up their stuff, say that once they were out, they were going to get ice cream with their daughter or play with their son, or walk their dog. Hours later, we were learning that they were dead (from overdosing).
“I learned we lock up tons of people because of drugs. I was exposed to something that I never thought that I would be exposed to— what I found is that about 70 to 80 percent of the people I was in jail with were active drug addicts. A lot of them were people like me: really good people, people who had goals and dreams like I had. They had jobs and families and were educated, but were stuck in the throes of addiction the way I was, before I had the privilege of getting sober.
“We’re all labeled. I’m Timmy Brooks, I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict, but I’m also a felon, and the fact that I’m a felon comes first.”
It’s a long way from 32-man cell pods. It’s an arduous odyssey from the endless chaos he caused his family, and to those dear to him, and it’s a revelation to the power of forgiveness and stepping into a realm of responsibility many still fear to tread.
“I actually like who I am today,” said Brooks, who last did drugs on Feb. 28, 2014, the day he was arrested. His sobriety date is March 1, 2014. “I made mistakes. I am and have been willing to admit all of those mistakes and I own them. I needed everything that happened to me to happen. I needed money to feed my addiction. That’s where it all came from. I lied to everyone in my family, and I regret it to this day. It makes me sick that I was a part of something where I was influencing or participating in things that led me to where I was.
“I also have a lot of gratitude. I live by a set of moral values and associate myself with others who live by those same values. I learned that character is not impression or perception; it’s action. It’s what I do when no one is looking. Am I going to do something because I want someone to think better of me, or do something because it’s what I believe in?”
“My mission is to walk through every door that opens and make the people who opened it glad that they did.”
From Sept. 9, 2015, the time Brooks got out of jail, until now, he’s made many believers.
Timmy Brooks was like any other high school kid. He dabbled here and there with pot; he’d drink beers with the guys on weekends like many kids his age.
Brooks attended the prestigious all-boys school with a great lacrosse tradition. Historically, Haverford School players wind up at major Division I colleges. Go down any roster of Division I NCAA national champions the last decade and chances are there will be a Haverford School player or two on it.
Brooks smoked weed for the first time when he was a junior in high school. He never did it alone, but it gradually progressed from recreational use to more habitual. By the time he graduated, his drug use had escalated.
He masked it well.
“I was very good at hiding it and lying about it, and talk about other kids who were doing drugs to put the attention on them,” Brooks recalled. “I made a lot of mistakes and lying to my family was the first and foremost among them. I’d tell my parents I was going somewhere when I was actually going somewhere else.
“I had great teachers and coaches throughout my life. At Haverford School, I was honest about the little things. One of my greatest regrets is not using all of the resources that I had at Haverford School to get help. I pulled it off well. My parents knew nothing. Some of my friends knew I was pushing it harder than others. I created an image of normalcy intentionally; I didn’t think I had a problem.”
“By the time I was a high school senior, I would have certainly qualified myself as a drug addict and an alcoholic.”
It didn’t mean Brooks was drinking or getting high every night. And he was still playing well. He says he never went to school high and he never played high. He made sure he kept that area of his life pure, whether subconsciously or not. His play garnered the attention of the coaches at the University of Richmond.
“That was part of how I could convince myself that I was OK, because I could set these rules for myself that I was convinced I could follow,” Brooks said. “As long as I followed those rules, I thought I never had a problem. I had a great group of guys on my team, and I didn’t want to do anything that would have been socially unacceptable around them.”
Brooks began playing organized lacrosse when he was in second grade. The sport was a part of him, as was golf. Brooks was also hit hard by the death of a friend, Kip Taviano, who died in a car accident on May 28, 2013. His inner-voice grew silent, and the self-imposed rules were gone. That summer before entering Richmond was filled with drug and alcohol use.
A week before arriving at Richmond in August 2013, as part of the Spiders’ inaugural recruiting class, Brooks momentarily cleaned himself up in fear of being drug-tested. Unable to manage, he quickly quit the team and withdrew from school.
By mid-September, Brooks was back at home in Villanova, Pa.
He underwent shoulder surgery on Nov. 7, 2013, to repair a previous injury, which laid him up for two weeks. Brooks was going to apply to a big state school and get a fresh start.
At least, that was the plan.
By mid-Dec. 2013, Brooks connected with others who were in a similar aimless stage of life. They would party together for days and weeks at a time, reaching the point where Brooks’ habit was becoming unaffordable. There are typically three ways addicts sustain their habits: steal, deal or prostitute. Brooks chose dealing.
It was a venture that didn’t last long.
On the morning of Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, Brooks got high for the last time. That night, he was visited by five Montgomery County detectives, who showed up in his kitchen.
Before that day, the strongest infraction Brooks had ever received was a speeding ticket when he was 17. Other than that, he had no criminal past and no affiliation with drugs.
“I remember one of the detectives stepping forward saying, ‘Timmy, we’re here to talk about the marijuana dealing that you’ve been doing,’ and that was my moment when I realized, moving forward, everything would be different,” Brooks remembers. “A lot of the mistakes that I made would be evident. There was no way of getting out of it.
“I looked at my mother, and I cried. Then she cried. My mother didn’t know. No one from my family knew. The detectives went through my car and an attorney came over. The attorney helped me navigate the process.”
The case never went to trial. Brooks pleaded guilty and was arraigned in April 2014. He found himself on a bus heading to county jail on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. He also found himself all over the media. "Dr. Phil" called. "Good Morning America" called. The "Today" Show called.
Before then, Brooks underwent a 30-day stay in an active recovery program at the Caron Foundation, based in Reading, Pa. He was in a unit of 20 men who ranged in age from 18-to-25, with differing recovery cycles. One of the initial things the 20 were told was that two would remain sober, five would die and the rest will struggle. Of the 20, Brooks has been the only one to have remained clean continuously. Five did die, Brooks was told.
Within three months in county jail, Brooks qualified for the work-release program. He would wake up at 5 a.m., catch a bus in Pottstown, Pa., to Ardmore, Pa., and arrive at a flower store. He'd work until 7 p.m. and take public transportation back.
“The light at the end of the tunnel was in sight,” said Brooks, who was greeted by his mother and his girlfriend, Maddie Duff, on his release date, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. “I started to think about whether school was something I wanted to do. Lacrosse, at that point, wasn’t even on my mind.”
Throughout this whole ordeal, Duff believed in him and saw things beyond headlines. She saw his essence, and bothered to care.
She was a major force during his incarceration. She wrote him a letter every day for the first four months he was in jail.
“I wasn’t about to be judgmental, I asked Timmy everything and I trusted what he said,” said Duff, a Virginia graduate with a degree in media studies. “I didn’t have a problem asking him deep, serious questions. I only knew the sober Timmy. I can’t even picture the drunk Timmy, or the Timmy that did drugs.
“The guy I met wasn’t the guy being shown all over the news.”
Duff and Brooks have been seeing each other since she wrote the letters.
Nine days before his release, Brooks noticed an ad for Cabrini University while going back to jail.
“I filled out an online application to Cabrini and I had a lot of doubt whether I would be accepted, because there was a box you had to check if you were a felon,” Brooks said. “I checked the box and the next day, I received a call from a woman in the Cabrini’s admissions office, and she asked me if I was Timmy Brooks.
“She asked me if I accidentally checked the felon box. I told her ‘No.’ We had a conversation about my experiences and the details of my life. I sent her docket records and a few days later, they accepted me. When I got home, [I knew] I was at least going to go to school and try it out.”
Brooks arrived home from jail on Wednesday, Sept. 9. On the following day, he was sitting in the second row in Accounting 110 at 8:15 a.m. at Cabrini. He had missed nine days of class.
Cabrini lacrosse coach Steve Colfer received an email from Brooks soon after he enrolled at the Radnor-based school, inquiring about potentially playing for the lacrosse team. Colfer knew of Brooks from the many years Cabrini hosted the Inter-Ac Invitational Tournament.
For six weeks, the two met on a weekly basis for about an hour. Colfer wanted to know a little more about Brooks, and he wanted to feel comfortable with re-entering a lacrosse setting. Colfer vetted Brooks and felt the time was right for him to be introduced to the team on the day before Thanksgiving break in 2015.
“We called a mandatory team meeting and everyone walked into the room thinking we were going to go over routine things, and I’m assuming 99 percent of the room was thinking that was it,” Colfer said. “We had Timmy in there and we introduced him to the team, and we told them Timmy had a story that he wanted to tell.
“Timmy took the floor before 45 to 50 guys he had no relationship with and told his story. He was genuine, transparent and authentic. Guys were completely blown away. After the question-answer period we had with Timmy, he left the room and as a group we talked about everything.”
The Cavaliers unanimously voted to make Brooks a member of the team.
Everything has been seamless since then.
“I’ve had faculty pull me aside and tell me how they love Timmy,” Colfer said. “He was elected as a captain his senior year. If I was faced with the same decision of Timmy being on the team, I would do it every single time.”
While Brooks had been warmly embraced by his new Cabrini teammates, he wasn’t so well received by opponents.
Brooks was subjected to being called “druggie,” “drug dealer,” and having his jail number being chanted.
“It’s simmered down now, but Timmy’s first and second years here, it was brutal,” Colfer said, seething. “I mean, the things said from the stands were unbelievable, and from opposing sidelines during warm-ups. I won’t go into the teams and the places. Those people have to live with themselves, if they knew anything about what this kid went through.
“What Timmy endured galvanized him, and it galvanized his teammates. We have an attitude that if a team wants to expend emotional energy before games, then let them. We love it when other teams chirp and talk, and scream and yell.
“I will say this: Timmy laughed everything off, because what was said pissed his teammates off more than it did him. He’s risen every metric of this program. Timmy can step down and shoot it with anyone in the country. He clearly has the ability to play Division I lacrosse, and he definitely has the academic profile to play at that level.”
Brooks has played midfield and attack. The only thing that’s stopped him has been nagging hamstring and shoulder injuries. He suffered a broken right collarbone earlier this season, yet failed to miss a practice, charting stats and compiling them into spreadsheets for the coaches and players.
“I only know this Timmy Brooks, and that’s what I told him the first day I met him,” Colfer says. “I don’t know the other man who had his issues. It’s hard to connect those two people. That’s the beauty of this country. We’re founded on giving people second chances. Timmy Brooks is a prime example of what you can do with a second chance in life.”
Brooks did have his concerns. He was trying to avoid the very partying environment that is sometimes part of the lacrosse community.
“What did it for me was becoming part of something greater than myself,” Brooks said, explaining why he made the choice to join the Cavaliers. “I hadn’t touched a stick in three years. I remember where I came from. I remember where I’ve been and how I got there. I wasn’t about to get caught up again. But the people here at Cabrini have been unbelievable.
“When I met the guys on the team, they accepted me, despite my past. I love this team and my teammates. It’s very, very clear that when my story was on the news, people did turn their shoulders and looked the other way. For every five people like that, there was one or two who reached out to me or personally reached out to my parents in support.
“That was the lacrosse community. I know the knock lacrosse gets in some circles, but personally speaking, as it relates to my active addiction, there were definitely lacrosse people in my life when I was having some of my worst moments. When I was getting as high as I could, and as drunk as I could, they came up to me and told me ‘You should probably stop’ and I looked at them and said, ‘F--- you!’ I wasn’t in a place where I could hear it.
“But the lacrosse people were the saviors in my world of recovering addicts and alcoholics. The lacrosse community tries to prevent us from doing the dumb things we would like to do.”
Clint Brooks, Timmy’s father, was also sitting in the stands at Cabrini games when the verbal salvos were fired. Clint was a rock throughout Timmy’s ordeal. Clint should know. He had his issues, too, growing up. He’s been sober for 25 years and very engaged in the sobriety community. It’s a hereditary disease that Clint had concerns would creep into the lives of his three children.
When the world was honing in on Timmy, Clint was a steadying force in keeping everything balanced amid the media scrutiny.
Clint confronted Timmy’s problems and painted a pathway.
“The first sign we had of what was going was when we had police in our house,” said Clint, 52, an employee benefit consultant. “We watched Timmy detox in our house, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. It was ugly.”
“Lacrosse has always been a big part of our lives. I played in college and coached Timmy when he was a kid. I will tell you this about Timmy, though. He’s a better golfer than he is a lacrosse player, and he doesn’t even practice golf. He’s always identified as an athlete and what he likes is the team notion of lacrosse. He likes the camaraderie and the closeness you get on a lacrosse team and Haverford School was unbelievable for him that way.
“If anyone should have known Timmy had a problem, it should have been me. Everyone at Haverford School has been tremendous. No one there is at fault for what happened. Timmy has one problem and it’s addiction and alcoholism. If he deals with that, he’ll own the world.”
Upon graduation, Timmy is starting a business for recovering addicts. Personally, it’s reached a point where numerous people have come to the Brooks family for sobriety help, and most of the time, Clint refers them to Timmy, who will sit with teenagers or their parents and let them know the perils ahead if they continue, explaining his own corridor to recovery.
Before this season, Cabrini never had a practice wall. Last summer, Timmy came up with the idea to build one at Cabrini’s lacrosse facility before he graduated. It was a priority for Brooks to dedicate the wall in the memory of Jake Durkin, a former Cabrini lacrosse player who died suddenly in April 2016 and would have graduated with Brooks’ senior class.
Brooks spearheaded a GoFundMe page, which raised in upwards of $15,000 in 72 hours. “Durkin’s Wall” went up May 1, with a dedication plaque in the lower righthand corner that states: “In Memory of Jake Durkin, No. 42.”
“After this year, there will be no current Cabrini lacrosse players who had the privilege to know and play with Jake at Cabrini,” Brooks said. “Over the last four seasons, the 2019 class has made it a priority to share our memories of Jake. The wall serves as a symbol for everything Jake was to the Cabrini community.”
Brooks made a list covering everyone from his teachers and coaches at Haverford School, to family and friends, apologizing to each one individually.
“I’m so proud of the man that Timmy has turned into,” Clint says with a snap of emotion in his voice. “What amazes me most is Timmy isn’t bitter or jaded about what happened to him. To me, if I were him, I would be bitter or jaded. He tells me he had to go through what he had to go through. It’s not who he is. His life now is going to be better than the one I thought he ruined.”
Before Timmy was sentenced, he treated his father to lunch one day. They sat down in a diner and in a very emotional tone, Timmy offered to pay for all of the legal issues and rehab. There was no way Clint was going to accept.
“The job of a parent is to love your child even when they’re being unlovable,” Clint said. “It wasn’t hard for me and his mother. Timmy had so much shame, we didn’t need to give him more. He was persona non grata everywhere. But it’s the magic of the recovery community throughout the world. It’s about second chances and making the most of them.”
With 4:51 left in Cabrini’s NCAA Division III Quarterfinal game against York on May 15, Brooks scored the tying goal on a man-up, knotting the game at 8-8. Cabrini wound up winning, 11-10, in overtime, sending the Cavaliers to win their first-ever NCAA Semifinal.
Colfer left the field teary eyed.
Timmy’s story is not over yet.
“I don’t know where Timmy is going, but I want to go too,” Clint said. “I couldn’t be happier for him.”
“Virginia Head Coach Lars Tiffany lost his father before this season started, and it was at his father’s funeral that Joe Solomon, a friend of Lars for a long time, presented the Virginia head coach with a wooden stick. And he said, ‘This is from your dad.’ And Lars has been bringing this stick to a lot of home games. He’s brought it with him now on the road. His dad had it made for Lars, and it was ready, unfortunately, after Lars’ father had passed. But that’s the last gift from father to son.”
“The Medicine Game. It takes several months to create a stick like that. The curing and drying. The rawhide cat gut. It’s made of Hickory. You can see the purple shooting string symbolic of the Iroquois.”
“That’s Al Jacque who made that. I’ve spent time with Al Jacque and Roy Simmons, Jr., who was my coach at Syracuse, on the Native American Reservation, which is right outside of where Tiffany grew up in Lafayette, NY. So he has a deep connection to the Native American culture. What I thought was profound, when he told us yesterday, you know, some people thought he should kind of hang the stick up, and it could be in his office. But he said, ‘these sticks are meant to be used.’ And it’s a great message for his team.”
“What he has tried to create at Virginia is to channel what this game is about, go back to its roots, the Native American roots of Lacrosse. They were the ones who gifted us this game.”