In offseason, `Solitude' goes on air

College football: DJ and Terps offensive lineman C.J. Brooks balances his two passions: music and football.

October 22, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - If you happened to be making your way across the University of Maryland's vast campus this summer, and you tuned in to the student radio station, WMUC (88.1 FM), you might have been lucky enough to catch "DJ Solitude" spinning one of his eclectic play lists.

"Solitude" - as his listeners call him - is no commercial DJ. His tastes are diverse, and his musical IQ is vast. He loves to keep the people guessing, so he'll start off a set with Company Flow's 8 Steps to Perfection, then sandwich some Tribe Called Quest between Johnny Cash and Garth Brooks. He'll slip back into hip hop with the Wu-Tang Clan, then relax your mind with anything from Cole Porter to Miles Davis.

You can hear DJ Solitude sing, too, if you're lucky. You just have to go to a Terps home football game and hope Maryland wins. If that happens, just look for the 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman - the one with the microphone in his hand - belting out the school fight song. That's DJ Solitude, or as he's more commonly known, senior All-America candidate C.J. Brooks.

"My daughter said to me the other day, `Dad, C.J. has such a better voice than you,' " said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who used to sing the fight song after victories, but has recently ceded the honor to Brooks. "I think they're happier with [Brooks singing]."

The fight song just happens to represent the perfect marriage of Brooks' two loves: football and music. He started dabbling in each when he was 13 years old, and the Rex, Ga., native has been hooked on both ever since. Though football takes priority during the season - such as tomorrow, when Maryland (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) travels to Clemson (2-4, 1-3) - Brooks longs for the days when he can kick back and strum his guitar or go on air and let his alter ego, DJ Solitude, take over.

"[The nickname] is something that I've had for a while, back to when I first started doing music stuff," Brooks said. "I just felt like I was alone in my style and in the way I did things, so, DJ Solitude."

"He does it all," said Terps center Kyle Schmitt, one of Brooks' closest friends. "Rap, classic rock, country, all of it. ... I was listening to him and he was playing like a Nintendo mix or something. I told him I felt like I was playing Mario Kart."

Brooks, a communications major and a Maryland scholar athlete in 2000 and 2001, almost certainly has an NFL career in his not-so-distant future. He is a four-year starter and was named to multiple preseason All-America teams. Just yesterday Friedgen named Brooks, along with linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and cornerback Domonique Foxworth, a permanent team captain for the rest of the season. Brooks is usually the driving force behind the Terps' running game. But even though he's as aggressive and as nasty as anyone on the field, there is a mellow, laid-back side to Brooks off it, and that may be the reason music is his career choice before it's all said and done.

"He's kind of a renaissance man," said offensive line coach Tom Brattan. "Life doesn't begin and end with football with him." In fact, if you can name something related to music - producing, performing, DJ-ing - you can bet Brooks is interested in tackling it someday. It has been that way ever since he talked his father, Clinton, into getting him a guitar in the sixth grade.

By his freshman year in high school, Brooks was DJ-ing at parties, and with the money he had earned, he saved up to buy a bass guitar. He didn't take lessons and didn't read music, choosing instead to teach himself how to play by ear.

"Most of the stuff, I just try to pick it up," Brooks said. "Lots of kids might try an instrument for a month, get frustrated and give it up, but I couldn't. I was just too interested in it."

His senior year at Morrow High School, Brooks was as skilled at playing football as he was Stairway to Heaven. A longtime Georgia Tech fan, Brooks dreamed of playing for the nearby Yellow Jackets, but their offensive coordinator wasn't completely sold on Brooks. The coordinator's name? Ralph Friedgen.

"We were recruiting him, but we kind of hedged on him a little bit," Friedgen said. "I don't know why."

Brooks got a second chance to win Friedgen over, though, when he signed with Maryland in 2000 and Friedgen became the Terps head coach before the 2001 season. Brooks, then an offensive tackle, impressed the coaches enough that they put him in the starting lineup right away.

"The first game of his career, he goes up against Julius Peppers from North Carolina," Brattan said. "I thought, `Well, here we go.' " Brooks held his own, though, and started every game that year as Maryland went to the Orange Bowl. He hasn't been out of the starting lineup since.

"He's my favorite kind of player," Friedgen said. "Low maintenance, high production. I've really enjoyed being around him. He'll go far because he's such a high-character kid."

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