MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -When coach Bill Stewart took the West Virginia football team to the university's pool after a grueling day of practice recently, defensive back Guesly Dervil challenged Payton Brooks to a race.
Bad move.
Brooks shot off the starting block and quickly got ahead of Dervil, who gave up.
Lesson learned. Don't mess with the swimmer.
``No one challenged him after that,'' said wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway.
Brooks, a five-time all-Big East performer in sprint freestyle events, ended his WVU swim career last winter and is using a fifth year of eligibility to walk on as a wide receiver. He's currently practicing with the reserves.
Brooks understandably turned heads upon his arrival at summer workouts, a risky decision considering he never played varsity football in high school.
here?'''
Stewart, always a champion of the underdog, liked Brooks' courage to try out.
``That's what makes the world go around. Why not?'' Stewart said. ``We all may not be astronauts but by golly we can all work at NASA.''
Brooks played ninth-grade football at Hurricane High School. As a 5-foot-5, 135-pound sophomore, he broke his wrist a week before the season started and never saw varsity action.
Some friends who competed with Brooks on a club swim team as a youngster then persuaded him to return to the pool year-round.
He placed third in the 100-yard backstroke in the high school state meet as a sophomore, won the 50 freestyle and took second in the 100 backstroke as a junior, and won the 100 and 200 freestyles as a senior, setting a state record in the 200.
When his college swim career was over, Brooks found out he could compete in a fifth season, as long as it wasn't swimming.
Football was an easy choice. Brooks had been attending WVU games since he was an infant. Now at 6-1 and 190 pounds, he was a respectable size for a wide receiver.
``I gave myself a week to really sit down and ask myself if I wanted to go through all the training and the hard work,'' Brooks said. ``I thought it was well worth it just to be a part of the program.''
mpared to high school ``is a totally different atmosphere,'' he said.
Alric Arnett is the incumbent at the X-receiver spot and freshman Logan Heastie and redshirt freshman Ryan Nehlen have been penciled in behind him.
Galloway made no promises about Brooks seeing action in a game.
``The biggest thing for him is just not playing football for the last four-five years,'' Galloway said. ``He's not the fastest, but he gets in the right spot. Will he play? I don't know. But if there's a spot somewhere in a game where I could put him in, I plan to.''
Brooks could be the latest in a line of successful football walk-ons at WVU that include fullback Owen Schmitt, now with the Seattle Seahawks. He also would join current starting quarterback Jarrett Brown as a two-sport athlete. Brown played for the WVU basketball team in the 2007-08 season.
``My goal is just to stay healthy and be a part of it and take it all in,'' Brooks said. ``If I can run out of the tunnel just one time, it would make me happy and make it all worth it.''
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