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Work in Progress

Posted Feb 28, 2012

If only Perry could see him now.

Ahmad Brooks lost his father Perry in 2010 due to an untimely death, but has since vowed to make his dad proud with his performance on and off the field.

True to his word, San Francisco’s starting outside linebacker recorded career highs in tackles (59) and sacks (7.0) in his fourth season with the 49ers, and sixth in the NFL.

On Tuesday, Brooks’ efforts were rewarded in the form of a six-year contract extension that will keep him with the 49ers through the 2017 season. Terms of the contract were not released by the team, but Brooks was pleased to officially make the Bay Area his home for the foreseeable future.

“I’m happy here and at the end of the day, it’s not all about money,” Brooks told 49ers.com, before making an appearance on the team’s flagship radio station and conducting a conference call with local reporters.

Money wasn’t the sticking point. Instead, Brooks valued being wanted and respected.

“I was telling (general manager) Trent (Baalke), ‘Money didn’t get me here,’” Brooks shared. “I’m happy to be getting paid what I’m paid.”

Other than financial security, the 27-year-old linebacker has plenty of other reasons to smile.

For one, he’ll be part of the team’s defensive plans for a long time. That means he’ll be paired up with the league’s most talented linebacking corps along with the likes of All-Pro inside ‘backers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman and rookie standout Aldon Smith, who Baalke assumes will take claim of a starting role after leading the team with 14.0 sacks.

“There’s going to be a lot of talent on that field,” Brooks said, referring to the NFL’s top-ranked rush defense in 2011 which went 14 games to start the season without allowing a rushing touchdown.

“Bo, he’s a beast,” Brooks began as he summarized his fellow linebackers on the 49ers roster. “He’s coming into his own and he’s going to get better. Patrick is going to get better. Aldon is going to get better – everyone is going to get better.

“I’m happy to be playing with these guys. When you have somebody right next to you that’s balling, you have no choice but to ball, too.”

Success on the field is only half of the story with Brooks.

A once talented, yet, troubled performer in college, the 6-foot-3, 259-pound linebacker left the University of Virginia through the NFL’s 2006 supplemental draft where he was taken in the third round by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Brooks lasted two seasons in Cincinnati, before being released in 2008. That year, the 49ers claimed Brooks off waivers where he began practicing initially as an inside linebacker.

Back then, coaches believed he would be a complement to Willis. But as practice sessions displayed Brooks’ natural pass-rushing ability, the inside ‘backer switched to the outside position he currently holds.
In his first few seasons with the 49ers, the position change wasn’t the only transformation taking place in Brooks’ life.

In 2010, Brooks lost his father in early March at the age of 55, the same number Brooks wears as his uniform number. However, despite the unfortunate circumstance, Brooks felt it changed him for the better.

Re-dedicated to the game, Brooks became a solid contributor mostly on defense in his third-down pass-rushing role. In 2011, his first season as a full-time starter, Brooks regularly displayed his knack of wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

No longer was he a third-down rusher, Brooks became an every down contributor on arguably the most aggressive defense in the league.

Now, he’s going to be a mainstay in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defensive schemes for years to come. The sheer thought of being in San Francisco long-term brought a smile to Brooks’ face as he seemingly recalled of all the big plays he made in his first year under the defensive coordinator.

“I feel like I’m in the right hands, the coaching staff is great. I can’t say more than that,” Brooks said with a grin. “They’re just great, and I’m happy to be a part of it. I just think that together, we can accomplish a lot of things.”

Brooks’ latest achievement stands out even more with all the things he’s dealt with in recent years.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I was beating myself for messing up in college and what not. But I just continued to work. With me being young in the NFL, I didn’t approach being a professional the way I should have early on in my career.”

Losing his father Perry, who played defensive tackle for the Washington Redskins from 1977-84, combined with his 2-year-old daughter Natalia, has matured Brooks in recent years.

Brooks also has become more of a spiritual person, as evidenced by his recent baptism at Abundant Life (Christian Fellowship) in Mountain View, Calif.

“I just feel like I’m at a different stage of my life,” Brooks said. “There’s a point in time when a man needs to re-evaluate his self and improve as a person. I think that’s where I’m at right now. It starts with God and then I can work on myself. I’m just trying to get better as a person.”

Brooks has remained in the Bay Area throughout the offseason where he’s been a constant participant inside the team’s weight room.

The only time he’s taken off was a week-long visit back to Virginia to spend time with Natalia.

But now that Brooks can continue to build bonds with his football family in the Bay Area, the physical linebacker can look forward to further developing on a 49ers team primed for making multiple runs at the Super Bowl.

“I’m trying to do as much as possible and not let something I love slip away,” Brooks said. “This right here can take care of my family, so I have to take advantage of this opportunity.”

In signing his contract, Brooks is eager to look for a home in the Bay Area. No longer will he have to live out of an apartment. Brooks’ contract enables him to take the next step in his maturation process.

“I have to take my life to a whole different level,” Brooks said. “I’ve got to start thinking about marriage, and kids, just the grown up thing. I would say the Bay Area is my home, even though Woodbridge (Virginia) is where I grew up.”

So on a proud day when Brooks put his name down on a contract that’ll reward his hard work of the past four seasons, and provides him with financial security for he and his family, the 49ers linebacker couldn’t help but think about how Perry would react.

“I’d hear some good and I’d hear some bad,” Ahmad admitted, “but I’d also hear the truth. I wish I had him to guide me and give me advice, but I have to rely on what my heart tells me to do.”

Brooks' heart is in San Francisco, with the 49ers.

For him, the work is only going to continue, as he’s not satisfied with merely signing a piece of paper.

“I came along way from the first time I got here and have been a work in progress… I’m definitely thankful and happy to be in the position I’m in. The game of football is hard work and I continue to work hard and I’m just happy to sign a deal with the San Francisco 49ers.”

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