Phillip Brooks proves he is more than ‘the old dude’ in Kansas State’s win over Troy

Phillip Brooks has been playing football at Kansas State for so long that his teammates like to call him “Uncle Phil.”

The 5-foot-8 wide receiver from Lee’s Summit doesn’t look anything like the beloved sitcom character from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” nor has he graciously agreed to look after his nephew in Southern California following a basketball scuffle in Philadelphia. But the comparison fits because Brooks has become an elder leader for the Wildcats.

Old jokes also tend to follow you around when you were recruited by Bill Snyder and your first college game happened in 2018.

“Phil has really taken his game to another level,” K-State quarterback Will Howard said. “And I mean that in terms of everything, not just on-the-field stuff. He has really stepped up as a leader in that room. We lost some guys last year and now he’s the old dude. His knowledge and experience is so good.”

Brooks reminded K-State fans that he is capable of even more during a 42-13 victory over Troy.

The sixth-year senior receiver turned in one of the best games of his long college career by catching seven passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for two yards and a score. On this day, he was more than just a leader or electric return man or veteran player with good stories to share. He was an alpha dog.

“He’s such an explosive playmaker for us,” Howard said. “I can’t say enough good things about that dude. I love having Phil around here.”

Games like this have always been expected out of Brooks since he burst onto the scene with 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a return man during a blowout victory over Kansas in 2020. But it has been difficult for him to duplicate that kind of stat line.

He caught 5 passes for 69 yards in a Texas Bowl victory over LSU. He hauled in four passes for 119 yards and a touchdown against Iowa State last season. He also had a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown against Missouri. Those were all memorable games for him. But his production in between them has rarely been spectacular.

Perhaps he is now ready to make a bigger impact in his final year with the Wildcats.

“I’m so happy for Phil,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said. “We went to him a number of times. We’re putting a lot on him — returning punts, returning kicks, as well as what he’s doing in the receiving group. But he’s been here a long time and he takes care of his body exceptionally well. Phillip wants that role.”

It is exciting to think about what Brooks and the K-State offense might be capable of if he continues to flash his top form.

Howard threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns on a day when he targeted Brooks nine times. Good things happened when he was involved. The Wildcats finished with 397 yards and six touchdowns, with Brooks finding the end zone twice in the first half.

His first score was simple, but still a thing of beauty. With K-State at the 2-yard line, offensive coordinator Collin Klein dialed up a jet sweep for Brooks. He took advantage of a great block from Ben Sinnott on the edge as he crossed the goal line.

His second touchdown deserves a special spot on his highlight reel. With time winding down in the second quarter and K-State trying to score quickly before halftime, Brooks caught a pass from Howard across the middle of the field and then zoomed up the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown.

“We definitely needed to make a play right there,” Brooks said. “That score was big-time because they had stopped us a few times and we were struggling to get going against their defense. Somebody had to make a play.”

That touchdown was, indeed, important. It gave the Wildcats a 21-10 lead and the game was never in doubt again.

Brooks was arguably the Offensive MVP of this game, but he did his best to downplay any talk of accolades when it was over. Yes, he has been working for this type of moment for a long time. It’s why he decided to return to Manhattan for an extra year of college football.

Obviously, he hopes more games like this are on the way. But “Uncle Phil” has learned to focus on the process more than the result.

“It’s crazy for me to think about, because I really just put my head down and work and then I look up and I see the results,” Brooks said. “I don’t really think it’s a big deal. In the moment I am just running the offense to a T and making a play. That’s really the only place my mindset is ever at.”