Feb. 6 will feature a dual celebration for Jalen Brooks. The North Gwinnett (Ga.) linebacker will turn 18 that day and sign his letter of intent to play football at Maryland.
"It'll definitely be pretty emotional," Brooks said. "My mom will probably be crying. I don't know if I'll cry, but I'll be happy. It'll probably feel pretty incredible – probably a day I'll never forget."
Playing football for a Football Bowl Subdivision program – and participating in Signing Day – wasn't always a foregone conclusion for Brooks. Several Ivy League schools pursued the senior, who considered Yale, Harvard and Princeton. But Brooks ultimately decided that Maryland offered him an acceptable balance of football and academics.
"It's not so isolated on the education part, and it's not just focused on football," he said. "It's the best of both worlds. … I just know that Maryland has a great reputation of being a top college, especially its business school. The ACC is already a top conference, and moving to the Big Ten is an even higher level. All the money is going to come in and feed the academic programs and research. That was pretty big."
An all-region player, Brooks helped North Gwinnett to an 11-2 record and the third round of the Georgia AAAAAA playoffs. The future Terp spent his senior year transitioning from strong safety to strongside linebacker.
"I think it helps just because I can play the open field and fill in the gaps," Brooks said. "It was a lot easier than I thought, making that transition from safety to linebacker. I liked it better than playing strong safety."
Here's an introduction to Brooks:
Name: Jalen Brooks
Birthdate: Feb. 6, 1995
Senior statistics: 93 tackles, 67 solo, 15 tackles for loss, five sacks, one pass batted down, three interceptions, 16 quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one blocked kick, two touchdowns on INT
Rankings: Rivals.com -- Three-star prospect. Scout.com -- Two-star prospect, No. 132 outside linebacker. ESPN.com -- Three-star prospect, No. 85 outside linebacker, No. 96 player in Georgia, 76 rating. 247Sports.com -- Three-star prospect, No. 133 outside linebacker, No. 129 player in Georgia, 80 rating.
Bench max: 280
40-yard dash: 4.65
Runner-up school: Yale
Other schools considered: Harvard, Princeton, Kentucky, Mississippi State
Favorite NFL player: Ray Lewis
Favorite NFL team: Atlanta Falcons
Favorite all-time Terp: Demetrius Hartsfield
Favorite music: Lil Wayne
Favorite movie: "The Dark Knight"
Favorite book: "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling
Favorite TV show: Workaholics
Favorite food: Crab
Favorite high school class: Math
Other high school sports: Wrestling, Track (freshman and sophomore year)
Hobbies: Movies and video games
Intended major: Marketing
Something that not many people know about you: "My obsession with movies. I just know a lot of knowledge [about movies]. I'll just read and read and read. I want to go into the field of producing movies."
Best football moment: "Getting an interception against Colquitt County in the Georgia Dome on the first play of my senior season."
Role model: "My dad because he's my best friend. I train and work out with him a lot. He's just always been there for me. He's my No. 1 fan."
Why Maryland? "I just had a great feel for the academics and the sports. I feel like I could make an impact there."