Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 8/1/12
HOUSTON The sweets have been eliminated and the carbohydrates intake dramatically reduced. In their place are rational rations of proteins and vegetables, staples for anyone considered body conscious. Texans rookie guard Brandon Brooks needed to make dietary adjustments. Texans coach Gary Kubiak called him to the carpet earlier this summer for being overweight, and before the narrative could shift toward questioning Brooks commitment he took the reins on his frame. I told them when they drafted me thanks for the opportunity; at the same time Im trying to do everything to put me in the best position to play, Brooks said. He (Kubiak) gets on my weight, whatever weight it is, had it been 315 (pounds) Id have been there just because I dont want to spoil an opportunity I have based on something that I can control. Despite shedding the extra 15 to 20 pounds he carried during organized team activities (OTAs) Brooks, at 335, remains a difficult man to miss. His size belies his agility, and for several days Brooks has garnered the opportunity to work alongside the offensive linemen projected to start for the Texans this season, a tight-knit unit with three returnees intact. But before Brooks could earn the veterans good graces and before he could showcase his ballyhooed athleticism, he had to display conformity. The process of grasping nuances of the Texans scheme was vital, but Brooks first had to reveal a fundamental adherence to fitness. I think he understood it coming through OTAs, Texans center Chris Myers said. When he came in here at 350 or whatever it was and learning the offense and seeing how explosive and how fast you have to be in the zone scheme, I think he realized that losing 10, 15 pounds may be of interest to him. He came out here for training camp and has it off. And hes been pretty strict with his diet, too, so Ive been pretty impressed with seeing him move around and getting into the offense. That move around distinction is the salient evaluation on Brooks. Before he incurred the wrath of Kubiak for being a large individual, Brooks was considered an odd fit as an interior lineman in the Texans zone-blocking scheme because he was, well, a large individual. Sure he is nimble and wondrously athletic for a man his size, but at 6-foot-5 and 350 pounds, Brooks feet needed to mimic Gregory Hines in order for him to excel as a run blocker for tailbacks Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The innate ability was present; what Kubiak sought to accomplish was to provide Brooks the motivation needed to open training camp poised to challenge for a starting job. The Texans lost right guard Mike Brisiel to free agency (Raiders), and 2010 co-incumbent Antoine Caldwell isnt considered a lock to claim the starting job from this open competition. In order for Brooks to maximize the opportunity at hand, the onus was on him to approach the opening with absolute dedication. Less than a week into camp, the signs of progress are apparent and positive. (Brooks) has the ability, he has big-time ability, but he needs to catch up, Kubiak said. You see flashes of what youre looking for. Turning those flashes of potential into one steady illumination of excellence remains the paramount task for Brooks. He had modest experience in the zone-blocking scheme as a collegian, and his senior season at Miami (OH) included marked improvement in technical savvy. As a complement to playbook study, Brooks is an ardent student of video review on his DVSport app for iPad. Some areas of refinement are under constant scrutiny like head placement and manipulation of his catch hand. The mental checklist is detailed and extensive, but the challenge of learning every step of the way has proven to be exciting. It has been to Brooks benefit that he has been enveloped by a group of linemen with a tight bond. Brisiel and right tackle Eric Winston (Chiefs) were critical components of that unit, but Myers, left tackle Duane Brown and left guard Wade Smith offer knowhow and guidance. Brooks is wise enough to keep his eyes and ears open and seek counseling when the time calls for having questions basic and complex answered. The older guys are more than willing to help me, Brooks said. So I definitely take advantage of that. That kind of helped me speed my game up from OTAs until now to adjust to the playbook a lot better. Those guys are like older brothers to me. Any questions I have on and off the field, especially off the field getting adjusted to the NFL as a rookie Duane Brown, Wade Smith, Caldwell, Myers, (Rashad) Butler, Newt (Derek Newton) - they all help me with any questions I have. Even the layman can recognize Brooks progress. While he remains humble with how far he has come since his arrival earlier this summer, the viability of his challenge to Caldwell continues to gain steam. Once Brooks proved to others his willingness for physical preparedness, the competition to fill the void left by Brisiels loss developed accordingly. It has made me go 120 percent every time because I do have an opportunity, Brooks said. Competition makes everybody better so whether I start or not, I know Im going to get the best because Im right on Caldwells heels, hes right on my heels each and every time we go in. Were both trying to start so that means were both trying to give 120 percent. That only makes us both better. Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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