Change In Game Plan

Dartmouth Hoopster Tries Conversion To the Gridiron

Dartmouth College football player Jvonte Brooks prepares to catch a pass during yesterday’s spring practice session on Memorial Field. Brooks, a former Big Green basketball captain, has left that program and is attempting to make a switch to the gridiron. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Dartmouth College football player Jvonte Brooks prepares to catch a pass during yesterday’s spring practice session on Memorial Field. Brooks, a former Big Green basketball captain, has left that program and is attempting to make a switch to the gridiron. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

Hanover — During the next two weeks, Dartmouth College sophomore Jvonte Brooks will learn about running routes and releases off the line of scrimmage as a newly-minted tight end on the football team. He will refine his receiving abilities and grasp the basics of how proper footwork relates to effective blocking.

First, however, the former Big Green basketball co-captain needs to figure out how to make his helmet stop hurting his head.

“It wasn’t as bad today as it was last time,” Brooks said with a laugh yesterday evening, after participating in his second football workout. “The first day it was squeezing my brain and I couldn’t keep it on for more than a few minutes.”

Brooks arrived at Dartmouth from Santee, Calif., roughly 20 miles northeast of San Diego, after a postgraduate year at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. He was part of the first recruiting class for Dartmouth basketball coach Paul Cormier, after the veteran bench boss had begun his second stint guiding the Big Green.

The 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward started 25 times and led the hoops squad with an average of 9.4 points per game as a freshman and was voted a co-captain before the 2012-13 season began. Things unraveled dramatically last season, however, with Brooks and Cormier clashing to the point where the coach benched the player and removed his captaincy midway through the campaign.

Earlier this month, Brooks’ name surfaced on a cbssports.com list of players intending to transfer from their current schools. Brooks said yesterday that he briefly considered that option, but elected to stick around.

“When me and coach (Cormier) butted heads in the middle of the season, I was mad in the heat of the moment,” said Brooks, whose hoops season ended when he dislocated his left thumb and tore a tendon on Feb. 15. “I asked for my release (from Dartmouth) to speak with other schools. I was talking to some for about four days, but I thought about it and I love Dartmouth too much to leave.

“I realized I was being immature and I didn’t want to leave an academic institution of this caliber. It’s going to be worth it 40 years down the line, and I have to realize that.”

Jvonte Brooks said Donnie Brooks (no relation), a Dartmouth assistant athletics director for peak performance and a former football player and coach at Springfield (Mass.) College, suggested a move to the gridiron.

Big Green football coach Buddy Teevens played football and hockey as a Dartmouth undergraduate and said he was amenable to the tryout once he cleared it with Cormier.

“He’s a big, athletic individual who hasn’t played a lot of football,” said Teevens, referring to the fact that Brooks’ only prior experience with the sport came as a high school freshman. “The big question is the mental side, because conceptually, it’s completely different from basketball.

“I told him it’s going to take an awful lot of work and there are no promises but I’ll give you an opportunity. We’ll see how he adjusts and we’ll talk at the end of spring practice.”

There’s some precedent for basketball-to-football switches, especially with tight end as the targeted position. All-Pro NFL tight ends Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons, Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers were all accomplished college basketball players before shifting sports. The Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks have made news in recent days for expressing serious interest in other hoopsters.

Brooks underwent surgery on his thumb in late February and participated in yesterday’s practice with the joint encased in a removable cast. He caught a few passes, but spent most of the session watching intently, asking his teammates questions and tentatively practicing route running and blocking form.

“It’s a different language with entirely new concepts and different footwork and handwork,” Brooks said. “It’s pretty confusing. In basketball, a backdoor cut is a backdoor cut every time, but a (football pass) route isn’t even called the same thing in every situation.

“The guys are helping me with any questions I have, and they have no animosity. I thought they might cold-shoulder me a bit, but it’s been exactly the opposite. I’m trying to learn as much as I can and it’s going well so far.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.