John Brooks has become a stalwart for Wolfsburg and the USMNT in recent seasons, but what else is there to know about the centre-back known as the #wallofbrooks?
bundesliga.com has the scoop…
1) Berlin boy
Born in the German capital in 1993, four years after the Berlin Wall came down, Brooks is the son of an American serviceman from Chicago. His early footballing promise saw him linked with German record champions Bayern Munich, but he reportedly turned them down to sign professional terms with hometown club Hertha Berlin at the age of 18.
Watch: Brooks's US-German roots explored
His career was nearly derailed in April 2014, though, after getting a large tattoo on his back mid-season. "I have no sympathy for someone who decides to do such things during the campaign," said then-Hertha coach Jos Luhukay. Brooks was dropped for the Old Lady's subsequent 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen. He was soon forgiven, however, with Luhukay reflecting: "Positive experiences aren't the only things that help young players grow up; setbacks are also part of the learning process." The USMNT star now also has images of Berlin and Illinois inked on either elbow.
3) Born in the USA?
Keep it on the down-low if you ever run into Bruce Springsteen, but Brooks has never actually lived in the United States. Unlike international teammates Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent, he even represented Germany at youth level. An U20 international with the country of his birth, Brooks took little persuading to pledge his international future to the US, though.
"The US really wanted me," he explained to US Soccer. "So it wasn’t a hard decision to play for the USA. I talked a lot to my family. My dad, who's from Chicago, my mom, my sister, my grandparents, my agent… all of them gave me advice. Since I decided to play for the U.S., they've been very happy."
4) A place in history
USMNT fans have been just as content. The 26-year-old has notched three goals in his 37 senior international outings, but the first of his strikes - an 86th minute winner in his nation's group stage victory against Ghana at the 2014 FIFA World Cup - certainly put him on the map for fans not already familiar with his domestic exploits. "I told some teammates I dreamed that I'd scored in the 80th minute and we'd won the game," Brooks said afterwards, adding, "It's unbelievable."
5) The greatest ever?
The Ghana victory also saw Brooks bridge a gap in USMNT history at the FIFA World Cup. The central defender was thrown into the action in the second half by former national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann, subsequently netting the winner to become the the first U.S. substitute to score at the tournament in 84 years. The feat saw fans take to Brooks' Wikipedia page, where they posted that he was, "the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln," in the player's opening profile.
6) We’re friends, touch Wood
Brooks is good friends with Bobby Wood – his fellow USA international who spent last season on loan at Hannover from Hamburg. The pair have been seen attending the NBA finals together, but they have had to set their loyalties aside on the pitch before now. Brooks stopped Wood from scoring when Wolfsburg met Hannover on Matchday 11 last season, but the 96ers still ran out 2-1 winners. Brooks has one fewer goal than Wood in the Germany top flight – nine vs. 10 – but he matched the striker 3-3 for goals scored last term.
7) Big name birthday boys
Born on January 28, 1993, Brooks shares his birthday with some illustrious names from the sporting world. Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher was born 15 years to the day earlier and would serve as a defensive role model for any young footballer. Brooks also shares a birthday with Golden State Warriors legend Andre Iguodala. There are not many the 6’4”-tall Brooks can look up to, but the 6’6” Olympic gold medallist certainly falls into that category.
8) American pedigree
Brooks is following in some illustrious Red, White and Blue footsteps in the Bundesliga. One of 52 Americans to have plied their trade in the German top flight, the 26-year-old is already sixth on the list of all-time US appearance holders in Germany's top flight, ahead of compatriots such as Christian Pulisic (90) and Kasey Keller (78), Brooks’s 128 appearances are some way short of record-holder Steve Cherundolo (302), but at the tender age of 26, he still has time to climb those rankings.
Although Brooks was not yet born when the Berlin Wall fell, the centre-back took on the moniker “Wall of Brooks” during his time with Hertha. The imposing defender was an impenetrable line of defence before injury last season, winning 212 challenges and helping Wolfsburg to eight clean sheets. Running head-first into a wall can’t have felt too different for opposition strikers.
10) Not just a wrecking ball
Despite his physically imposing stature, Brooks is almost as big an asset to his team when they have possession as when they are trying to win it back. New USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter came to watch Brooks strut his stuff against Nuremberg last December and liked what he saw.
“He had a good game,” he told bundesliga.com. “He was active, he was winning balls and he was dominant as a centre-back. He had some good moments of very quick passing [too], breaking lines, [with] very firm balls on the ground, very accurate passes.”
Berhalter’s impression was backed up over the course of the season, with Brooks completing 89 percent of his attempted passes at an average rate of 55 per game.