Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, hurled thunderbolts. Alcoa sophomore Derrick Brodus chooses to use his left leg to kick them.
“He’s a beanpole with dynamite in his legs,” senior lineman Seth Coulter said.
Standing 6-foot-1 and listed at a very generous 185 pounds, Brodus is probably the one weapon that could be overlooked this season on a team with as much talent as the Alcoa Tornadoes have.
While teams prepared to slow down Randall Cobb, Troy Hodge, Sam Thompson and a slew of offensive talent, or game planned to find a way to block Josh Dossett, Coulter, and Alcoa’s stingy defense, opponents could do nothing to stop Brodus. He was a weapon the Tornadoes were able to use every game this season.
Brodus may not be a physically imposing figure on the football field, but his ability to kick a football created an imposing task for opposing offenses. Throughout the season, the left-footer routinely pinned offenses back against their end zones with kickoffs that knifed through the air like a hawk diving to deliver the death strike with its talons.
It has been routine for teams to begin drives at their 20-yard line.
“We call him our secret weapon,” Thompson, a junior receiver, defensive back and punter, said. “He’s been unreal for us.”
“The kid could be our MVP,” defensive coordinator Brian Nix said.
Never this season has Brodus’ ability shone as bright as in the final two games of the season.
To begin the second half of both games, along with the kicks following every Tornado score, Brodus got the opportunity to showcase his abilities.
The soft-spoken Brodus teed up the pigskin, backed up a pre-measured distance, took his steps and thundered away at the football a combined 13 times in the two contests.
Against Donelson Christian Academy in the semifinal round, he had seven opportunities to kickoff, thanks to the 38 points Alcoa scored in the rout. Of those seven kickoffs, three went into the end zone — two of them out of the back of the end zone! — for touchbacks.
Another kickoff was caught in the air by a Donelson Christian player at the 1-yard line as the ball sliced away from him. The momentum of the kick, and likely the force of the ball striking his hands, knocked the kick returner off balance. He stumbled and fell, forcing Donelson to begin the drive with their heels, literally, on the goal line.
It wasn’t until his final attempt in the second half, with the Tornadoes up 38-0, that a Brodus kickoff failed to pin the Wildcats inside their 20-yard line.
Combined with Thompson’s ability to drive back Donelson returners with a pair of 40-plus yard punts, the Wildcats’ average starting position for their 11 drives was their 16-yard line.
While Brodus and Thompson could not repeat the effort in the championship game against Goodpasture, their efforts were still impressive.
Four Brodus kickoffs went for touchbacks and his first returnable kick was after Alcoa scored the final points to go ahead 35-3. Thompson, like Brodus, a football/soccer player at Alcoa, had only one opportunity to punt.
The duo combined to force Goodpasture to begin its drives, on average, inside its 30-yard line. For a high school team to traverse that much playing field without some type of mistake is difficult, especially against a speedy championship-caliber defense.
“He’s done a great job all year,” Hodge said of Brodus. “It gives the defense momentum when he backs (the opponent) against their goal line. It’s hard for a team to drive 80 yards against our fast defense.”
“Most high schools can’t go 80 yards,” said Cobb, the 2A Mr. Football at quarterback who also starts at defensive back, “so it means a lot for Derrick to make them go 80.”
“You just think about the percentages. In the NFL, teams only score 20 percent of the time after a touchback, so you think it has to be less in high school,” Nix said.
Coulter added: “It doesn’t get better than having them start at the 20-yard line. It takes the pressure off of the ‘D’ and puts it on their offense.”
Brodus is a man of few words
“I’m just glad I have the ability,” he said. “I just try to give the defense a chance.”
With a little work and continued maturity for the current sophomore, it may be Brodus who receives the next chance – a chance at two more rings and a chance at a college football scholarship.