San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks didn't take the easy route. In his seventh NFL season out of Virginia, his mere 141 career tackles are proof that he's taken a long road before finally finding success with the 49ers.
As a college student, Brooks was dismissed from Virginia's football program for a marijuana possession charge. Taken in the supplemental draft, he was charged with assault while with his first team, the Cincinnati Bengals. And a number of injuries have put his success on hold.
He didn't play in an NFL game for two straight years during a span from 2007 to 2009.
He's gained the stigma of being out of shape and teams have thought he didn't know the playbook so well, but in the past two years with San Francisco, he's finally emerged as a formidable outside linebacker, Sports Illustrated's Dennis Dillon writes.
Finally, Brooks had a chance to showcase his skills in 2009. He played in 14 games and had six sacks and five forced fumbles. After missing the 2010 opener because of yet another injury (he lacerated his kidney during training camp), he sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees in Week 2. He made his first start for San Francisco in a December game in Green Bay and sacked Rodgers twice.
Then came his emergence in Fangio's defense, a 3-4 scheme that might not have been much different from the 3-4 run by former coordinator Greg Manusky, but was friendlier to Brooks' skills.
Brooks sacked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the final possession of Sunday's game, helping the 49ers to a 30-22 victory. He had seven sacks and 50 tackles over the course of last season as an unheralded part of San Francisco's vaunted defense.
Dillon writes that Brooks impressed head coach Jim Harbaugh by coming into camp in what San Francisco's coach called the best shape of his career.
Seven years in, and it appears to be just coming together for the 49ers linebacker. Better late than never.