First Posted: 12/11/2009
If Mount Airy brings home a second consecutive NCHSAA 1A football championship today, Brooks Mayberry will return to school Monday as the biggest winner walking the halls of the high school.
Mayberry, a senior captain and two-way player, is believed to be the first athlete to win three state championships in a school year in at least the past 17 years. In 2008-09, he won state titles in football, as a tennis doubles team with his partner, Nick John, and again when the Granite Bears tennis team won state gold. John has three state titles to his name, as does junior runner Matus Kriska. Mayberrys teammate, Justin Collier, was also on the football team last season and later won a state title in the high jump. But if Mount Airy reclaims its title today, Mayberry would trump them all with four championships.
What makes Mayberry the dominant athlete that he has become is his ability to diversify and crumble preconceived notions. Hes an agile tennis player, but a hard-nosed lineman on the gridiron. Soft-spoken and articulate, he unleashes his pent-up energy on the athletic fields. Hes 5-foot-11 and, as he says, 185 pounds soaking wet, but plays a position on the football field reserved for behemoths.
But everything that seems to contradict has made him a better athlete. The lateral movements of tennis give him exceptionally quick feet for a lineman. As offensive line coach Donald Price put it, He wont blow you away in the weight room, but hes what you call country strong. And his slender physique allows him to get downfield for the kinds of blocks that take out linebackers and spring big plays.
You should see it, Mount Airy head coach Kelly Holder said. He has really great feet and Im sure tennis helps him a bunch. Its really odd for a really good tennis player to be a really good football player.
And, as everyone that coaches Mayberry acknowledged, his smarts also make up for any lack of size.
Theres not much you can do when you go up against a Robbinsville defensive player whos 300 pounds, the senior captain said. Whats gotten me through all these years is thinking who I need to block or who I need to take on in order for the play to work.
That philosophy has earned the praise of his coaches. Plays that usually dont make it into the score sheet or the newspaper are among the most important and Mayberry has made a ton of them this year.
If it means making a tackle, he makes the tackle. If it means taking a blocker on so the linebacker can do it, he understands and those are the things he does to help us, defensive line coach Darren Taylor said. Hes just one of those kids you wonder if you lose him where you would be.
Although things dont always go as planned.
Along with being smaller, Im also quicker than the more heavyset players, Mayberry said. So I try to think more than them and get there faster than them. Sometimes it works out, sometimes I get sat on.
Its a good thing hes also tough and resilient. Price and Taylor agreed that Mayberry is a demon on the field and his championship pedigree was earned with a diehard attitude.
Defeat is not in his vocabulary, Price said. Hes not going to lay down for anybody. Its just doesnt happen. Its not in his nature to get bullied.
That said, Mayberrys personality is more subdued than the version seen on Friday nights. He said being able to be a different person when he puts the pads on is a lot of fun.
Its kind of like a whole different lifestyle than what Im used to living, he said. I wouldnt consider myself a confrontational person, I wouldnt consider myself to be a mean person, but on the football field, you just have to be ruthless.
Sometimes he has to hold back. Linemen are usually stuck in piles where referees may not be able to see everything that is going and a lot of illegal stuff does happen. Mayberry said it can be difficult to control his emotions in the heat of a game.
Its pretty hard, he said. Some control it better than others. Ultimately, youre going to get another shot at that person, so you might as well suck it up and not devote the next play to them. Thats part of the reason our teams successful were unselfish. We know if we just go off and be selfish and try and go after that one person, it wont be beneficial to the team at all. We take that into consideration every time we step onto the field.
Mayberry is on the field more often than not, as he plays both offensive and defensive line. His experience on either side of the ball allows him to foresee whats coming from his opponent. So when that offensive lineman is pulling towards him or when a nose guard is about to go for a swim move, Mayberry knows how to react.
This is Mayberrys final football season at Mount Airy, although he will get to defend his tennis titles in the spring for a Granite Bears squad bringing nearly everyone back. That means Mayberry could conceivably graduate with six state titles to his name. While he said hes not the type of person to weigh himself down by showing off all his title rings, Mayberry said that he feels fortunate to have lifelong reminders of his victories.
It makes you feel accomplished that youve put your heart into something all those years and youve succeeded in something you wanted to do, he said.
Contact Ed Phillipps at [email protected] or 719-1921.