The stats are eye-popping: 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks — team-leading figures for one of the best college football programs in the country in 2021.
For many defensive linemen, particularly those producing like that from the inside, they can expect to hear their names by at least Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
Curtis Brooks, however, saw 215 names selected before the Indianapolis Colts came calling Saturday in the sixth round. The University of Cincinnati product says he's grateful for the opportunity to show what he's made out of at the next level, and will be using the pre-draft chatter from pundits about his "lack" of size inside, as motivation moving forward.
"The question's definitely about my weight — if I can I can hold the point or not, vs. double teams or not," the 287-pound Brooks said in his initial media availability after being taken by the Colts. "And I'm going into camp with the mentality that I won't forget where I went in the draft, that's for sure.
"They said I'm a little bit too light. I won't forget this."
Brooks played five seasons in all for the Bearcats, methodically working his way from reserve his first two years and part-time starter the next two years before his breakout 2021 campaign, in which he earned First-Team All-American Athletic Conference honors.
"I put that extra work in," Brooks said of his final collegiate season. "I took care of my body a little bit better, cut back on my weight a little bit, worked on my pass rush every day. … And it showed off on film, paid off on the film."
Brooks is the second defensive tackle selected by the Colts in this year's NFL Draft, joining Missouri State's Eric Johnson, who was selected in the fifth round (No. 159 overall). While Johnson could project as more of an inside-out defender up front, however, Brooks seems to fit more as a prototypical three-technique in the middle, and he'll get the opportunity to see some snaps behind All-Pro DeForest Buckner.
"I actually love the Colts' defense," Brooks said. "It's great for me and what I can do. I'm just a guy who can go get it, and that's what I look forward to in my opportunity with Indianapolis."
Brooks is also the second University of Cincinnati player taken by the Colts in this draft, as standout wide receiver Alec Pierce was selected by the team in the second round (53rd overall). The two had a quick conversation via FaceTime shortly after Brooks' selection by the Colts on Saturday, and both hope to instill their winning attitude they earned during their time at Cincinnati, which earned a spot in the College Football Playoffs in 2021.
"What we bring to the table, that winning feeling, that go-get it mentality, we're ready to go chase this thing," Brooks said.