Originally published December 1, 2011 at 9:02 PM | Page modified December 2, 2011 at 6:52 PM

O'Dea's Jomari Brooks ready to leave his mark in 3A state championship game

Jomari Brooks doesn't mind the brush-offs. Those who take him lightly on the football field often pay heavy consequences.

Times staff reporter

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Jomari Brooks doesn't mind the brush-offs.

Those who take him lightly on the football field often pay heavy consequences.

At 5 feet 10 and 183 pounds, Brooks isn't overly imposing in his O'Dea football uniform.

But he hits like a ton of bricks.

"He plays bigger than he is," coach Monte Kohler said. "He plays with a lot of heart."

And that's how Brooks wants to be remembered as he closes out his prep career at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Class 3A state championship game against top-ranked Bellevue in the Tacoma Dome.

"You don't have to be big or strong. It's the size of the heart that matters," he said. "I like it when people underestimate me. Then I just bring it to them."

Brooks has come up big for the 13-0 Irish at both running back and linebacker. He is their leading rusher, with 1,167 yards on 123 carries, and has scored 10 touchdowns. Defensively, he has a team-high 27 solo tackles and is third in total tackles with 107.

"We ask a lot out of him," Kohler said. "He's a smart football player who makes football plays. ... He's an athlete. He runs really well, and that obviously helps. He's a tough kid."

Living in the Central District as a youngster, Brooks said his parents didn't want him to grow up too tough. So they enrolled him at O'Dea as a freshman.

Brooks said sports had helped keep him out of trouble. He started playing football at age 7.

"My older brother used to play, and I wanted to be like my older brother," he said. "People told me I was good, so I stuck with it."

Brooks also runs the hurdles in track and used to play basketball, but dropped it to concentrate on football.

"I like the passion you have to have to play," he said.

He also likes the physical nature of the sport.

"On offense I hit, and on defense I hit," Brooks said. "I just like hitting."

He earned a starting spot on defense as a junior and ultimately got some starts at fullback. That season ended too soon, as the Irish fell 13-12 to Capital in the quarterfinals.

"That left a bad taste in our mouths," Brooks said. "We knew we were better than that."

That loss has been a motivating factor in the Irish's return to the championship game for the first time since 2007, when they let a big lead slip away in a 42-35 loss to Skyline. O'Dea, which won titles in 1991, '94 and '95, also lost in the 2003 championship game to Bellevue.

"It's our turn to get them back," Brooks said.

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