Jalen Brooks never allowed his career as a college football player at Maryland to get in the way of his lifelong pursuit of traveling abroad. Brooks, a linebacker who finished his eligibility last season, is taking the same approach to a potential pro career.
A little less than two weeks after participating in Maryland's Pro Day, and a few weeks before he hopes to sign as an NFL free agent, Brooks will be traipsing around Europe for the next week as part of the school's three-man team in the "Red Bull Can You Make It?" competition.
The energy drink company brought 200 students from 60 countries, including 18 teams from the U.S, for what Brooks described as an "Amazing Race"-type event where the participants surrender their wallets, purses and cell phones — but not their resourcefulness.
"They give you a map with 60-something tasks in 12 different countries," said Brooks, who only knows that the event starts Tuesday in five different cities and ends a week from Wednesday in Amsterdam. "I think we're just going to kind of wing it."
The teams are provided with a case of Red Bull at the start to use as currency to pay for food, housing and transportation. Each time a task is completed, the team is supplied with another 24 cans. "It seems pretty nuts," Brooks said Saturday
Brooks and his fellow Team Terp members — Tomas Garchitorena of New City, N.Y. who like the former Maryland football player is a graduate student in finance in College Park, and Jorge Richardson, a senior from Bethesda — flew to Rome on Sunday.
"They give every team one Smart phone, and for seven days straight travel across countries … it may be like stopping in Rome to do skydiving or go to Germany and go scuba diving, a bunch of random challenges," said Brooks, who is from Suwanee, Ga., near Atlanta.
Garchitorena said he hasn't quite grasped what they are about to experience.
"It didn't really hit me yet, really," Garchitorena said Saturday. "I guess it will hit me once we're out there. I'm in College Park. I have a bed to sleep in, school and all that stuff. I haven't really wrapped my head around it.".
The biennial event has been sponsored by Red Bull since 2014, with most of the competitors coming from Europe and Asia. Aside from Rome, where Team Terps will begin their quest for one of the grand prizes, teams will also start Madrid, Budapest, Stockholm and Manchester.
"They have this giant following now," Brooks said of Red Bull's event. "Some.of the teams in Europe and Asia already have followings of tens of thousands of people. In America, it's a growing market. They split the U.S. into nine sections, we were in the Mid-Atlantic section.".
The opportunity for Brooks and his fellow Maryland students was unexpected.
After their video and the amount of social media voting was considered by judges, Team Terps initially finished third in the Mid-Atlantic to teams from American University and Howard University.
Last Wednesday, Brooks learned that the one of the other teams had passport visa problems and Team Terps was asked by Red Bull officials whether it was still interested.
"We haven't really had that much time [to prepare], we already have a pretty good following for the campaign we did for the video, I think that's why they contacted us," Brooks said. "I've been spending the past couple of days getting all fresh Maryland gear."
It is the latest overseas trip for Brooks, starting when he was growing up. Brooks said that since he came to Maryland in 2014, he has been to more than a dozen countries, including taking a trip to Australia after the 2016 season with Terps punter Wade Lees, who is from Melbourne.
"I would say that since I've been a freshman, I've left the country three to four times a year," Brooks said. "I'm very big on being exposed to as much possible.";
Brooks, who also is involved in a startup called CURU, wants to continue with football. Despite playing a reduced role the past two seasons under DJ Durkin since he started 11 of 12 games as a sophomore, the 6-1, 236-pound Brooks is hoping for a shot at the NFL.
"Pro Day went really good," Brooks said. "My agent said that most of the scouts said they didn't see me as someone who'd get drafted, that I could be a high priority free agent. When I get back from my trip I'll probably take most of my visits."
The team that showed "the most interest" was the Indianapolis Colts, who are now coached by former Maryland quarterback Frank Reich.
"I spoke to them all throughout the [Pro] day," Brooks said.
There is a bit of irony to Brooks taking on this challenge from Red Bull.
He barely touches the stuff.
"I've drank them a couple of times, studying for a final, but I don't tend to drink them socially or even casually," he said.