Brooks has surgery for spinal pressure

Loyola junior remains at Shock Trauma Center

High Schools

September 28, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Loyola junior Van Brooks remains at Maryland Shock Trauma Center after surgery that relieved pressure on his compressed spinal cord, the result of an injury Brooks suffered while making a tackle during Saturday's game at Georgetown Prep.

On Sunday night, the hospital listed him in critical condition. Brooks was injured when his head collided with the leg of a running back.

After the operation late Saturday evening, Brooks, 16, had feeling and movement in his hands, Loyola officials said yesterday, speaking on behalf of Brooks' parents, Shelly Brooks and Van Brooks Sr.

Students and faculty gathered for an assembly yesterday morning in the school's gym, during which they were led in prayer by the Rev. Joseph Machini, head of campus ministry, and updated on Brooks' condition by the school's president, the Rev. Jack Dennis.

Afterward, members of the football team and Black Student Union - of which Brooks is president - met separately with guidance counselors, said Kathi O'Connor, Loyola's public relations director.

"A lot of the kids were at the game, some of them weren't. Our concern was to bring them together and deal with their emotional state," said O'Connor. "Of course, they all want to go by the hundreds to see Van at the hospital, but we've asked them not to. We want to allow Van and his family time to recover."

Students instead are writing letters and appearing in a video that the school will bring to Brooks, O'Connor said. The school is holding a Mass for Brooks' friends and family Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the campus chapel, O'Connor said.

After school yesterday, athletes went about their business throughout the Henry J. Knott Building, Loyola's physical education facility. Football players watched film in preparation for Saturday's game against McDonogh. Volleyball and water polo teams played matches. Wrestlers worked out. Other athletes were scattered around the weight room.

Meanwhile, Mark Harrison, Loyola's director of diversity, recalled spending Sunday at Brooks' bedside, watching the Ravens' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I was just there for him, telling him, `God is with you,' and `We'll keep praying for you,'" Harrison said.

Brooks is "someone I use as a peer role model for other students," Harrison said, and "a natural born leader."

"He's not just that way in football, but in academics, his friendships. Van is the first junior to serve as the president of the Black Student Union," said Harrison, the group's adviser. "When he walks into a room, you know he's there. He has a way of making you appreciate him."

Brooks is a popular figure at Loyola because of his confidence and outgoing personality, the school's president said.

"I remember, as a sixth-grader, he comes in and just fits like a glove," Dennis said. "Even though he was a hot-shot athlete, his friends were a mixture of students from across the board."

Upon spotting then-freshman Brooks during a debate with a classmate, Harrison nicknamed him "J.C.," for Johnnie Cochran, the well-known lawyer.

"I was just watching his demeanor when he was calmly making his point to one of his peers - not yelling or screaming, but being no less adamant," Harrison said. "I told him, `You may be good athletically, but your calling is to be a lawyer.' He said, `You know it.' "

"I met with the BSU members today to see where their emotions were, and they were pretty concerned," Harrison said. "He's their motivator, friend, even a brother to a lot of them."

Brooks, a defensive back and running back, had one of his defining moments on the football field a year ago in a 24-6 rout of state power Urbana of Frederick County.

In that game, Brooks' 65-yard punt return set up Amir Karimian's 35-yard field goal. He also caught a 21-yard scoring pass and made an interception to set up a third score.

On Saturday, Brooks made his first start on offense and scored a touchdown.

"Van brings a certain intensity to the game," coach Brian Abbott said. "His very presence makes people better. Van does that everywhere on campus."

His eyes watering, Abbott said: "I just want to see that personality again, and my faith tells me that I will. My faith has got to allow me to understand that things will work out and that Van will have the strength to overcome this. If anyone can, it's him."

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