Clarence Brooks Jr., an all-conference offensive lineman and assistant coach for UMass Amherst in the 1970s who went on to defensive coaching success in the National Football League and won a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens, died Sept. 17. He was 65.
Born in New York City in 1951, he moved to New Bedford in 1960 and graduated from New Bedford High, playing on the undefeated 1968 Whalers team. After his graduation in 1969, he went on to play at UMass Amherst while earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
In a 2010 interview, he said of his undergraduate years, “UMass was a good spot for me and I had a great four years there. I wouldn’t trade those four years for anything else.”
He returned to New Bedford High as a teacher and freshman football coach, then became the line coach at the former New Bedford Voke.
His UMass Amherst coach, College Football Hall-of Famer Dick MacPherson, hired him in 1976 to work with the defensive ends for the Minutemen. “Coach MacPherson put me where he needed me,” said Brooks, an offensive guard from 1970-72. “He put me on the defensive line and I am still there.”
Brooks later coached at Syracuse and was the defensive line coach for the “Desert Swarm” defense at the University of Arizona from 1990-92.
He moved on to the NFL in 1993, when Dave Wannstedt hired him as defensive line coach of the Chicago Bears. Brooks then had stints in the same capacity with the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins before joining the Ravens in 2005.
During Brooks’ 11-year tenure, the Ravens allowed the NFL’s fewest rushing touchdowns (89), second-fewest points per game (18.9) and the league’s second-fewest rushing yards per game (94.2). In the team’s first 16 years (1996-2011), Baltimore held opponents to under 4.0 yards per rush, ranking as the longest streak in NFL history.
Known as a “players coach” who acted as a father figure and friend to many players, he was the longest-serving coach on Baltimore's staff. He earned a ring for the Raven's Super Bowl win for the 2012 season.
Brooks ended his career as the Ravens’ special defensive assistant, a position coach John Harbaugh appointed him to in January, four months after Brooks was diagnosed with cancer.
“We knew he loved his players,” Brooks’s wife Justa said in the team’s statement on Saturday. “Through all of this, we’ve found out how much his players loved him. We thank everyone for the loving support.”
“One of the finest coaches I have ever met, he changed the lives and influenced players and coaches for the better,” Harbough said. “He was a great man, loving husband and devoted father. He was as tough and determined in adversity as you’ll ever see and as loyal a friend as there is. ‘C.B.’ will forever walk as a loved and cherished member of the Ravens family.”
Brooks is survived by Justa, their son Jason and daughter Adrienne, and their two grandchildren, Aviana and Avery.