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Leading By Example: 'High Tide' Club Includes Elite 11 Players


Monday, September 06, 2004

Brandon Brooks
Brandon Brooks

By Becky Hopf
UA Athletics Media Relations

If Brandon Brooks ever lost his day planner, he says he could still function quite nicely. But the Crimson Tide's junior flanker from Birmingham admits that ever since he started using one this past year, his life is much more organized.

He can even take the snickers his teammates hurled his way on August 9 during the fall reporting day meeting with Director of Life Skills Karin Lee. Lee, whose role at Alabama includes scheduling the student-athletes' appearances and community volunteer work around their classes and athletic schedules, was center stage in the squad room announcing that each of the players would be given a planner to help organize their busy lives. In making the announcement, she off-handedly remarked, "Brandon, I know you already have one."

That was when the chuckles started. It caught Brooks by surprise as suddenly, the eyes in the room and the laughs focused on him. The future accountant looked around at his teammates and then shook his head. He could take their good-natured kidding, hopefully, all the way to the bank some day.

Less than eight minutes later, that same group that had laughed at him cheered and applauded him. It was a telling moment about this football team at the University of Alabama. It showed they care not only about being great on the field but about being great in the classroom.

Brooks and ten of his teammates were named to the "High Tide" Club. It is a most elite organization, albeit an organization that doesn't hold any meetings. What it does hold is prestige.

"The `High Tide' Club was formed last year at the request of Coach (Mike) Shula," said Jon Dever, Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Academic Services for Intercollegiate Athletics and the man who announced the 2004 members at that team meeting. "It doesn't necessarily recognize those with the highest GPA but those that have given the best overall effort, setting the best example of what a student-athlete should be off the field. Ten white shirts and one crimson shirt are handed out. The crimson shirt represents the player who exemplifies the top student-athlete."

Wearing the crimson in 2004 is junior strong linebacker DeMeco Ryans, a management major with designs on someday running his own business. Ryans was an All-District Academic All-American and Academic All-Southeastern Conference last season, in addition to being the holder of the school's single game record for tackles (25 against Arkansas in 2003).

Joining him in the club are Brooks, Todd Bates, two-time honoree Wesley Britt, Tim Castille, two-time honoree Anthony Madison, Evan Mathis, Le'Ron McClain, two-time honoree Charlie Peprah, Juwan Garth and Cornelius Wortham.

"It's very special to me," said Ryans, "because I take a lot of pride in my academics as well as my athletics. I know that athletics is not everything. It's great to play football, but I still have to have something to fall back on because football doesn't last forever."

Brooks says time management and a will to try harder are keys to their success. "There's a lot we have to keep up with. Football is just one part of it. We have classes, meetings, all kinds of things. I could live without the planner, but it's been really helpful. I'm really organized anyway. I always try to be on time, have everything in a certain spot.

"When they called my name out, I thought it was really special," said Brooks who voluntarily continues to go to study hall each day even though his upper-class status and good marks in the classroom exempt him from mandatory study hall attendance. "It was a little gratification for all the hard work that we've been doing for all 11 guys. Hopefully there will be even more than 11 next year. It's real hard to do, for any student, but especially for an athlete with the amount of time we are left with. You have to be disciplined and hit the books when you go home. I'll leave two-a-day practices, eat, and then go to study hall. If I have a test coming up, I'll go to study hall two weeks in advance from six or seven until closing and study. Then I'll go home and relax. And there are a lot of the guys on the team just like me. It's important to us to do well, not just on the football field. That's why everybody clapped for the 11 guys who got the shirts."