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Alabama WR Ja'Corey Brooks looking to build off Iron Bowl heroics

Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Ja'Corey Brooks (7) celebrates with running back Trey Sanders (6) and tight end Jahleel Billingsley (19) and wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) catching a touchdown pass against the Auburn Tigers at the end of regulation at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Alabama defeated Auburn in four overtimes. Photo | Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Ja'Corey Brooks (7) celebrates with running back Trey Sanders (6) and tight end Jahleel Billingsley (19) and wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) catching a touchdown pass against the Auburn Tigers at the end of regulation at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Alabama defeated Auburn in four overtimes. Photo | Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Ja’Corey Brooks didn’t grow up with the Iron Bowl. Now, the Miami native can’t go anywhere without being asked about it.

While Bryce Young is hailed as the hero of last year’s Iron Bowl comeback win over Auburn, it was Brooks who came down with the 28-yard touchdown reception that capped off the Crimson Tide’s game-tying drive in the final minute of regulation. Since then, the receiver has become a bit of a fan favorite himself.

"Pretty much when everybody sees me, they say that was a great catch from the Iron Bowl," Brooks said while meeting the media for the first time Monday.

Brooks takes a modest approach when recalling his over-the-shoulder touchdown grab that silenced a raucous Jordan-Hare with 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter last November.

In fact, the significance of the grab didn’t even begin to sink in until he made it back to the sideline where his teammates began to hype him up.

“Honestly, I’m from Florida, so I didn’t know like how big the Iron Bowl was,” Brooks said. “So I just went out there and took it play-by-play. But after I got to the sideline, Jamo [Jameson Williams] told me it was a great catch. During that play, I was just executing and doing my job.”

Brooks’ game-tying grab wasn’t the only reception he made during Alabama’s last-minute drive. He also pulled in a 21-yard grab on the right sideline to move the Crimson Tide into Auburn territory.

The former Rivals100 receiver recorded a catch in each of Alabama’s last six games, including a 44-yard score against Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl. He followed that up with a season-high six receptions for 47 yards against Georgia in the national championship game. In total, Brooks appeared in all 15 games during his freshman season, finishing in 15 receptions for 192 yards and a pair of scores through the air.

Now fully recovered from an injury that kept him out of spring camp, he’s hoping his freshman experience will lead to even more production this fall.

“It helped me as a player a lot more, you know, because I have grown older,” Brooks said. “I’m still missing certain things so I just try to take in what I can take in day by day just trying to learn it slow.”

Alabama lost all three of its starting receivers from last season in Jameson Williams, Jameson Williams, John Metchie III and Slade Bolden. Heading into the fall, Brooks is in prime contention to fill one of those roles as he battles with fellow returners Traeshon Holden, JoJo Earle and Christian Leary as well as incoming transfers Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell.

As for where Brooks will line up on the field, the 6-foot-2, 196-pound receiver offers a bit of versatility. According to Pro Football Focus, Brooks spent 264 snaps as a perimeter receiver compared to 61 in the slot last season. However, when asked if he has a preference, the sophomore said he’s capable of lining up wherever he is needed in the offense.

That flexibility could help his chances at landing a starting role considering Burton and Harrell both lined up primarily on the outside at Georgia and Louisville respectively before joining Alabama this offseason.

“You can put me anywhere,” Brooks said. “The guys who are here with me, I feel you can put those guys anywhere. We’re all just going to come out, work and compete.”

Brooks is also looking to improve his chances of breaking into the first team by building up a better repertoire with Young this fall.

“I feel like it’s improved a lot,” Brooks said of his chemistry with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. “We still have more room for improvement, but we’re still getting better this offseason, and we’re taking it day-by-day.”

Alabama will return to the field Monday at 2:30 p.m. CT for its fourth of 20 preseason practices leading up to game week for the season-opener against Utah State on Sept. 3 inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.