It didn’t take long for Jamal Brooks and Aubrey Miller to click on July 23 during Missouri’s Night at the Zou camp.
“I really don’t know why,” Brooks said. “I just remember going to the Night at the Zou camp and (Tigers defensive coordinator DeMontie) Cross telling me Aubrey was the other linebacker he really wanted.”
Brooks remembers Cross saying, “You and him together would be perfect.”
Brooks, a Rivals three-star inside linebacker from Bessemer (Ala.) City High, introduced himself to Miller, a three-star outside linebacker from Whitehaven High in Memphis.
During the next six months, an epic recruiting bromance between “The Bash Brothers” — a nickname bestowed by a Tigers’ staffer during a photo session at the camp — was forged.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen his film, but he can hit and I can hit,” Brooks said. “I don’t think it will be a problem living up to that nickname.”
The respect is mutual.
“I’ve seen his film and he’s seen mine,” Miller said. “We’re big boys, and we like to catch bodies and lay them out. It’s going to be fun for us to be on the same team coming in.”
That quick friendship is a major reason, only three days after meeting, Miller and Brooks committed to Mizzou on the same day, forming a significant piece of the program’s effort to rebuild on defense. On Wednesday, both signed with Missouri.
“Sometimes, you travel somewhere and just feel so comfortable,” Miller said.
It was almost like a calling, and Brooks felt it, too.
“I didn’t really pick Missouri,” he said. “... Missouri thought about me and picked me.”
Brooks was hooked on the Tigers after the first phone call with Cross early last summer.
“I knew they were going to offer, because they had told my head coach,” Brooks said.
During that conversation, Cross asked Brooks to name the other schools who’d offered him. He rattled off Kentucky and Vanderbilt then started to go through the list of ACC schools.
Brooks recalled Cross interrupting, “Stop right there. The University of Missouri — no, I’m — not going to let you outside of the SEC.”
It was music to Brooks’ ears.
“That faith, that line right there, showed me,” Brooks said. “He hadn’t met me yet, but, if he had that much confidence in me and wanted me that bad, they deserved a real big-time look from me.”
Brooks became one of Mizzou’s most vocal champions on social media.
“He’s kind of the glue of the recruiting class for us, in all the coach’s opinions, and I think all of the other recruits would agree with that,” Cross said.
Second-year coach Barry Odom doesn’t want signing day to be their career highlight. He’s eager for Brooks and Miller to emerge as the heartbeat of the Tigers’ defense in the coming years.
Miller has some experience with that after earning Tennessee’s Mr. Football honors for helping lead Whitehaven to an undefeated Tennessee Division I Class 6A state championship last fall.
“Aubrey definitely was the spirit of the group,” Whitehaven coach Rodney Saulsberry said. “He played the game at a high level with high intensity and high energy. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s very energetic and very motivated on the field, so he definitely was the heartbeat and the spirit of the defense.”
Miller led Whitehaven with 114 tackles, including nine for a loss, along with four interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Brooks — who had 168 tackles, eight forced fumbles and two interceptions as a junior — capped his prep career with 167 tackles and nine sacks last fall, earning All-Birmingham first team honors from al.com and a second-team all-state nod.
“Aubrey has a little more versatility to play in space, whereas Jamal is definitely our inside presence — a guy that’s going to plug up the middle a little bit, but has enough athleticism to drop into coverage if need be,” Cross said.
Don’t be surprised if one or both work into the depth chart when fall camp opens in August.