MOBILE, Ala. — Lockport High School wide receiver Malik Brooks, who had been committed to the University at Buffalo, signed with Monmouth University on Wednesday.
"Monmouth felt like family," Brooks said Thursday. "All the pieces seemed to click there."
Brooks said he liked the coaching staff at Monmouth, an FCS program that plays in the Big South Conference. The Hawks went 8-3 in 2018 and 4-1 in the Big South.
Seventeen players signed with UB on Wednesday, the start of the NCAA’s early signing period for FBS programs. Three wide receivers are part of UB’s early signees: Jelani Foster of St. Vincent Pallotti in Laurel, Md.; Trevor Solomon-Wilson of Godby High School in Tallahassee, Fla., and Javien Cuff of Vero Beach, Fla.
Foster had 77 catches for 1,250 yards and eight touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons. Solomon-Wilson had 33 catches for 972 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018, and Cuff had 27 catches for 387 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018. Wilson also won the Florida Class 2A state championship in the 400-meter dash in May.
Brooks' signing with Monmouth was a bit of a surprise. He told The News on Monday that he did not plan to sign Wednesday on the first day of the early signing period, and that he considered UB as his "first choice."
“My family and I don’t think it’s time to sign,” Brooks said earlier this week. “I’m not really considering other schools.”
Brooks, an All-Western New York first-team selection, set the Western New York record for receiving yards (1,244) in a season, and set the Lockport school record for receptions (47) and touchdowns (17) in a season.
Monmouth is losing All-American wide receiver Reggie White Jr., the program's career leader in receptions (249) and receiving yardage (3,471).
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The Bulls (10-3) face Troy (9-3) on Saturday in the Dollar General Bowl, but the week leading into UB's first bowl game since 2013 has been about more than football.
The Bulls have visited a local children’s hospital, gone bowling and toured a World War II battleship in their first three days in Mobile.
“The funnest thing I’ve done here is go to the hospital and spend time with the kids there,” quarterback Tyree Jackson said of UB’s visit Wednesday to the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital. “The kids were so happy when they saw us, and it felt so good to put a smile on their face.”
The Bulls traded their cleats for Velcro and lace-up bowling shoes, and beat the Trojans in the team bowling tournament. UB center James O’Hagan picked up a bowling ball for the first time in years, and got a few tips from linebacker Nicco Ruggiero as he warmed up. In one easy motion, O’Hagan sent a bright green bowling ball towards the pins, which tumbled when the ball struck them.
“During bowl week, these kind of things are important because the whole year, you’re pressing to get a championship, and you’re pressing to get to the game,” O’Hagan said. “But with this, you get here a week early and you really can enjoy the experience, rather than rush in and rush out, like we always do.
“It’s definitely something special. I’ve never been a part of a bowl week, but being a part of it is awesome.”
O’Hagan clearly was the most enthusiastic about bowling, but looked forward to the visit Thursday morning to the U.S.S. Alabama. The battleship was commissioned in 1942, had fleet assignments in the Pacific from 1943 to 1945 and was decommissioned in 1947. It has been docked in the Mobile Bay since 1964 and open to visitors since 1965.
“I was a history major and I love the military, so getting onto the battleship is going to be pretty fun,” O’Hagan said Wednesday night.
Running back Jaret Patterson is on his first trip to Alabama.
“I’m more of a simple type of guy, looking out the windows of the bus and seeing how the scenery looks and how the buildings look, and all the trees and all the landscape,” Patterson said. “It’s a beautiful place. I like it. I wish I could live down here. The weather is great throughout the year.”
Linebacker James Patterson — Jaret’s twin — found one more perk of his first trip to the South.
“The food has been very good,” James Patterson said. “Southern food. Fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, we had grits and sausage, gravy with biscuits … you name it, we had it.”