It’s 6 a.m. at Monarch Park Stadium.
It’s quiet except for the sounds of a lone man’s feet as he sprints down the track.
Just then a roar pierces the near silence.
“Toronto Argonauts! BC Lions! Hamilton Tiger-Cats!”
“Calling out these team names gives me the willpower to keep going,” York Lions running back Errol Brooks said later. “It helps me visualize where I want to be one day.”
The York University football player, who took part in the Canadian Football League Combine in March, said he’s looking forward to the CFL’s college draft on May 13. He’s worked against steep odds his entire football-playing life to get to this point.
“I can’t afford a professional trainer or a nutritionist or the food that comes with a nutritionist,” Brooks said. “Every morning l’m in the track field at Monarch Park Stadium doing my sprints.
“In the evenings I am training at Wellesley Community Centre, doing a combination of exercises. It’s free but it’s hard because it’s always packed. A 45-minute workout ends up being a two-and-a-half-hour workout because I have to keep waiting for my turn to use the equipment.”
Though he starts his training before most people leave home in the morning, Brooks’ work ethic hasn’t gone unnoticed in his neighbourhood and beyond.
“This kid is what l call a mentor,” said Omar Omar, an active member of the Regent Park community. “He inspires all the underprivileged kids in the Regent Park and St. James Town area.
“The message he sends in the community is you don’t need the greatest gear to overcome obstacles that are in your path to success.”
More than just economic hurdles, Brooks has struggled to prove himself physically.
“I am 5-foot-7, my weight is 176 pounds and it’s always worked against me,” he said. “A lot of teams overlook me. They look at me and see an undersized kid. But I have the numbers to back it up.
“All I need right now is an opportunity to prove that l can break the height and weight barriers.”
Brooks’ determination and work ethic could be his ticket into the pro ranks, said Adrian Dutchak, a coach with the York Lions.
“Errol may be shorter, smaller and underweight compared to the average footballer, but we have seen people who are just like him who have proven that they deserve to be at the top,” Dutchak said.
Brooks has proven he’s good enough to reach the top of Ontario university football. In 2013, he rushed for 701 yards on 101 carries, good enough for third in the OUA. He was named an OUA first-team all-star, York’s first since 2007.
But now he has his sights set on professional football, a dream he’s had since he was nine years old.
“Right now in my life I’m at that moment where once the opportunity comes my way I am going to prove to teams that doubted me that they should have picked me,” said Brooks.