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September 21, 2005

The secret recipe

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Want to know the secret to Brookhaven High School's success on the field and in sending major players like Terry Glenn to the NFL? The answer can be found in Georgia Hauser's brownies.

When you walk into Brookhaven coach Tom Blake's humble office, you immediately notice he shares the room with Hauser, who Blake affectionately calls the school's director of football operations. Adorned on the wall on her half of the office are pictures of Glenn, a Brookhaven graduate, and countless other players that have long since moved on in the 35 years that she's been there.

Hauser teaches and helps Blake with a thousand other tasks, but every Friday she brings brownies for the football team. It's a tradition that provides that extra little sense of magic on football Fridays at Brookhaven.

"The kids come here every Friday morning for those brownies," Blake said. "She's been doing it for years, and the kids love her for it. She's avid about our sports, our kids and she's a tremendous asset. It really helps the kids feel special and feel like their part of a special community."

Blake's assistants also play a role in that special bond between the school, football program and community. Many of his assistants are former players and some have been at the school almost as long as Hauser has.

"They understand where the kids come from," Blake said about his coaching staff. "They've walked the same streets, maybe it's a little bit different now then what it was like back then, but they've dealt with many of the same issues that our kids deal with now.

"They understand where the kids come from and that gives them the type of support system they need to succeed and go on prepared for college."

Players succeeding and going on to college has happened quite a bit at Brookhaven the last two years.

In 2005's class four players signed Division I scholarships highlighted by Alex Daniels, Keith Massey and Dominic Jones all landing at Minnesota. The Bearcats also won the state title in 2004 and this year's team is off to a 3-1 start buoyed four-star tight end Jeff Cumberland and three-star offensive center Mark Jackson.

"It's been a blessing," Blake said.

"Woody (Hayes) always said you should surround yourself with good people, and that's what you have here. We have had some talented athletes the past couple of years, and it's made it all worth while. This year we're truly blessed with two players you guys have highly ranked."

Those two guys are Jackson and Cumberland. Jackson is ranked as the nation's No. 5 offensive center prospect and Cumberland is a four-star prospect that is the nation's No. 8 tight end.

"For Mark to be as mobile as he is, he's a real find for anybody at center," Blake said. "And Jeff has had attention from the USC and the Oklahomas of the world. Cumberland is just a big tall kid that can run."

And it's that size and speed that has opened up the debate as to what position he will end up playing at in college.

"We play him at tight end, and but he wanted to play wide receiver," Blake said. "He was gone all summer with basketball, so he was gone for 10 days with that and kept him behind a little bit. So we put him back at tight end.

"Could he play wide receiver? He has the speed. Maybe he will be in college. He needs to work on catching the football. We worked hard on that yesterday with the jugs machine. When he catches that ball, the kid just can run. He's a talented kid, Oklahoma even talked to him about playing defensive end, so people will find somewhere for him."

College teams will, especially when you look at the fact that four of his seven receptions as a senior have resulted in touchdowns. One of those three other receptions would have been a 60-yard touchdown pass against Cleveland Glenville, but the pass was called back on a clipping penalty.

Cumberland has remained kind of quiet about his favorites - other than saying if Miami were to offer it would be a done deal - so even Blake doesn't have an insight as to where he's going to end up at. Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, Penn State, USC and Oklahoma were some of the teams that his coach rattled off that still were pursuing Cumberland hard.

"He's going to make some team happy," Blake said. "I've told him that when he gets to whatever school he gets to, he needs to think hard about where they're going to play him at. The longevity in the NFL for defensive ends is a lot longer than it is for tight ends or receivers.

"I think he can develop that defensive mentality. He played rush end for as a sophomore and he would come off that edge and just kill people. He had four sacks in one game last year, so when he turns it on he's special."

Jackson's recruiting interest has seemingly narrowed down to Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State and Ohio State with the Buckeyes the only team that hasn't offered. Blake thinks whatever program gets him is going to get one of the best offensive linemen he's ever coached.

"Mark has quick feet for a big kid," Blake said. "He's 300 pounds and he's not fat. When he gets in the weight room and gets stronger, he's only going to get better and better. He's 6-5, 6-6 and has such quick feet. He can snap the ball, pull and do everything you need from a guy at center, but he can do it at 6-6 and 300 pounds, which is rare."

The only stumbling block that could keep both Cumberland and Jackson from reaching all of their goals is their grades. Blake said both are not qualified at this point, but they should make it if they take care of things as seniors.

"We have a different system than other schools," Blake said. "We don't give semester credit. Mark went to summer school and got a good grade in an English class, and that helped him. He originally thought he might be a prep school type kid - still may be - but he's in better shape now.

"Jeff is going to be on the bubble, but both those kids are doing a lot better now. We don't give that semester credit, so the kids and coaches can't see the increase and their efforts. They have to wait until the end of the year to see what the results are, and that's some times hard to keep the kids motivated."

But that's where Hauser's brownies come into play again.

"She really helps the kids, and is always asking the guys about their homework and reminding them about how important the books are. All of us around here want these kids to succeed," Blake said.

"So we're going to do everything we can to make sure that the reach their dreams. We're going to have to stay on them and keep them focused on getting better both on and off the field."


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