You may have noticed that long-time defensive line coach Clarence Brooks has been absent from the sidelines and other team activities this year. This however, wasn't the choice of Brooks.
Brooks, age 64, has been sidelined for most of this season with what has been diagnosed as Esophageal cancer. The disease, which strikes the esophagus and leads to a host of painful symptoms, has kept the tenured coach off the sidelines this year, and even at home during some of the team's away games.
Despite being held back from coaching the game he loves, Brooks has remained unfazed throughout the brutal healing process.
"There’s a point in time where you say to yourself, when all the everyday hustle and bustle is going on, you say to yourself, 'hey, that used to worry me a lot. It doesn’t worry me a lot anymore.' I got bigger fish to fry."
Brooks has now completed the process of chemotherapy and other treatments this week, and is slated to have a surgery to remove his tumor sometime in January or February. Despite the daunting task of going through and recovering from an invasive surgery, Brooks isn't daunted by this challenge either.
"It’s a big surgery. I have a meeting with my surgeon in two weeks and he’ll explain it all to me. ... There’s a lot of rehab involved. I feel good about being physically up to going through it and mentally, I’m certainly up to going through it."
Brooks has been a member of the Ravens' organization ever since 2015, when then-Head Coach Brian Billick brought him on to be the team's defensive line coach. Ever since then, he's held the position, making him the longest-tenured coach on the team. During his time with the Ravens, he's been responsible for producing some of the league's best pass rushers. Timmy Jernigan, Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams, and Pernell McPhee have all been products of Brooks.
While Brooks hasn't been around as much as he'd like this season, his defense is still performing well, remaining one of the team's strong points. Even amidst the painful radiation therapy sessions, Brooks has been thinking of ways to make his unit better.
"I’ve got to make use of this 10 to 12 minutes instead of aimlessly letting my mind wander. Think of something constructive. A lot of times I thought of my grandkids, I thought of some things I want to do. One of these days I’m going to retire. I thought about that. Sometimes you try and think about 'what can I do to help this guy [be] a little better player?"
Now that's truly inspiring. Our thoughts and prayers are with one of Baltimore's best coaches as he goes through some turbulent times.