Terrence Brooks and Dexter McDougle weren't teammates, but they do have a history.
During the 2014 NFL Draft, Brooks, a free safety from Florida State, was selected in the third round, 79th overall, by the Baltimore Ravens. McDougle, a cornerback from Maryland, was chosen next with the 80th overall pick, by the Jets.
Three years later, with one preseason game remaining on the schedule, Brooks, who was now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was acquired by the Jets in a trade for McDougle.
"It was always a city that I was interested in," Brooks said. "Being a small-town kid growing up in Dunnellon (FL), you've got about four stoplights. So going to a city like that is the polar opposite. It was a great opportunity. The trade was definitely surprising, but it was more of an excitement just because it was a city that I've always wanted to live in. And so it was really cool."
With the Ravens for two seasons and the Eagles for one, Brooks' first game as a Jet was ironically against Philadelphia in the preseason finale. Having played in 34 games during his first three years, that experience helped him not have to arrive early and stay late in order to learn a new playbook.
"Honestly, it was more like a revenge thing for me being able to go back against Philly," Brooks laughed. "It's really the terminology that you've got to pick up. Usually, they're the same concepts from team to team. But for that part, everything was really basic, so it was easy to pick up on. And I played a really good game that game. It was just a cool experience to see those guys again and be on the other side of the ball. There was a lot of trash talking."
While Brooks was in Philadelphia the season before joining the Jets, he had the opportunity to talk with and learn from veterans including now Hall of Fame free safety Brian Dawkins. Those conversations were beneficial then and also when he was wearing a uniform with a different shade of green – as a Jet. And it was something that he was able to pay forward with his New York teammates.
"I made sure that I stayed in touch with those mentors and kind of picked up on the things that they've done, and that they taught me," Brooks said. "What's crazy is you do get to learn some things from some younger guys too, from their different styles of play and how they see the game.
"I was able to give guidance to (then-rookie safety) Jamal Adams quite a bit and we became really close. I got to learn a little bit about how he plays and how he sees the game. And I gave him some advice on how I see the game, as well. So it was all a helping experience with that. But for the most part, I just used my peers and past mentors that had helped me."
Did Jets head coach Todd Bowles share with Brooks what was expected from him to help the team? What his role would be?
"Just to be me. I knew that I was going in to be a role player with the potential of getting a lot of time on defense," Brooks said. "And honestly, I did really well with the positions that I was given and the special teams play. It was all a good experience. I took whatever role they had for me and kind of made it the most for myself. I felt like I did capitalize off those opportunities."
In Week 3 of the 2017 season against Miami, Brooks had the opportunity to force not one, but two turnovers in the Jets' 20-6 victory over the division-rival Dolphins. Midway through the third quarter, Miami called for a fake punt and Matt Haack's pass was intercepted by Brooks. In the fourth quarter, he picked off Jay Cutler and had a 13-yard return.
"I kind of just let loose and not worry about everything else outside of ball and just soaked in the moment," Brooks said. "That was a game I feel like I just took it back to my kid days. Just flying around and having fun."
Brooks, who also had a game-high three pass defenses, was named as the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
"It meant a lot. I feel like I was always very kind of underrated throughout my career, somewhat," he said. "I still got some great recognition and great awards, but it was just a point of, 'hey, I can play in this league.'
"Most of the time there are guys who are really good and good enough to be starters and whatnot, but there's so many other things that play a role in you getting those opportunities. So for me, whenever I got the chance to step on the field, it was definitely a part of going out there and trying to prove myself. Whatever I can do to put notice to my name and kind of get that recognition is awesome."
With New York for two of his eight seasons in the NFL – besides Baltimore and Philadelphia, he also played for New England and Houston – among Brooks' fondest memories from his days with the Jets is the competition they faced.
"Playing against the Patriots, I always loved that experience just because they are a very sought out after organization," Brooks said. "So getting a chance to go against them to kind of prove yourself was always a great opportunity. But really, I mean, just being in New York, period. And getting that Player of the Week and just being around a great group of guys, it was fun."
Nine years after the safety and special teamer's first season, Brooks will be a rookie again this fall after recently being named as the secondary coach at Niceville (FL) High School.
"My son started playing football and baseball and all that stuff and that's really what got me into it," Brooks said. "I was coaching my son's little league football team and just had a great, great experience with that. I just love being around the youth and helping them out and kind of dropping knowledge on them to kind of give them a head start in life. Just trying to teach them all the life lessons that come with sports.
"And me being here in Niceville, I kind of wanted to leave my mark and get more into the community. Niceville is a prestigious high school and I had the opportunity to go coach there, so I just wanted to jump on that."
Having played for the five teams, Brooks has experienced different coaching styles and isn't jumping into his new venture blindly.
"Coached by Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh and Lovie Smith, just being around all those types of guys, they're all guys that really stuck with me, I learned a lot of things from them. How to relate to the players and get the most out of them," Brooks said.
"Just being around them, being around that whole atmosphere of great coaching, I feel like it's rubbed off on me and it's helped me with my approach to the youth. Being able to help these younger guys, and potentially get them to the next level, that's all my goal is. And I'm looking forward to it."
A former player and a soon-to-be coach, Brooks is most proud that he's the dad of two sons: Carter and Kole; and a daughter, Hayden.
"The demand of the NFL was a lot. I missed a lot of time with them. Holidays, things like that," he said. "So for me, being able to have this time off and be with them and instill more into them, that's something that's very special to me and basically makes me who I am. Everything I do revolves around them."