ORONO, Maine — At 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, when University of Maine football player Isaiah Brooks walks into a classroom, he already stands out.
The offensive lineman is even more noticeable on Tuesdays when he is decked out in stylish suits and wearing one of his 80 ties.
He calls it “Tie Tuesday.”
“In college, you usually see people wearing sweatpants everyday … dressed down casually. I wanted to be different,” said Brooks, who is of Jamaican heritage and used to sing in the church choir.
His high school, Bloomfield (Connecticut) High School, had a dress code and he enjoyed following it.
“That’s when I started collecting ties. I’d wear a tie almost every day in high school,” said Brooks, a fifth-year senior and the starting right guard.
He thought people looked classy when they dressed up, “so I tried it and I fell in love with it.” He said he has a tie for almost every holiday and is always keeping his eye out for new ones.
“I go all over … the Internet … stores … from people who don’t want them anymore. I get them for Christmas gifts. I get them a whole bunch of places,” said Brooks.
One of his more colorful ties has a eye test chart on it with a big eyeball at the bottom.
Brooks said he tries to find ties that “stand out. Or if they don’t stand out, I’ll get one if the color matches a certain outfit.”
He said dressing up fashionably is something in which he takes a lot of pride.
“It’s what makes me who I am. I hope more people will do it someday. I’m seeing a few more people doing it lately,” said the soft-spoken Brooks, whose wardrobe includes hats, topcoats, shoes, suspenders, blazers, vests, bow ties and tie clips in addition to shirts and pants.
“There is no question Isaiah is the best dressed player on our team. It’s not even close,” said UMaine offensive coordinator Liam Coen.
“He’s a great dresser. He definitely takes pride in his appearance and how he goes about his day on Tuesdays, especially,” said offensive line coach Brian Picucci. “At banquets, he’ll be a little more risque with his outfits. The other guys feed off it.”
“He has a tie with a picture of a tie on it,” pointed out senior Jamil Demby. “He has so many different ties. He does a great job mixing it up.”
Junior Darrius Hart believes he can give Brooks a run for his money in the fashion department.
“It depends on what day of the week it is. You could throw me in there. Not on ‘Tie Tuesday,’ though,” grinned Hart.
“When it comes to suits, I’m the clear winner,” countered Brooks with a smile. “But some of the outfits he has, he’s probably better off.”
Like any self-respecting fashionista, Brooks has his no-nos when it comes to his ties.
“I won’t wear jeans when I wear ties. Or pullovers. And I try not to wear sneakers,” said Brooks.
Junior Sterling Sheffield said Brooks always has a different look.
“Sometimes, he’ll have an NFL team on his tie. Other times he’ll wear a colorful tie or a nice striped tie. Sometimes it’s business, sometimes it’s a little fun,” said Sheffield.
Brooks’ fashion flair definitely seems to rub off on those around him.
“He is an example of a kid who loves life, who loves where he’s at,” said UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak. “He’s an unbelievable kid. He takes advantage of every opportunity he has. He’s a great representative of our program.”
Brooks also takes pride in his efforts on the football field. He has started every game since his redshirt freshman (second) season. He was a tackle for two years before moving to guard in 2016.
“He has been a warrior for us,” said Harasymiak. “He’s never hurt and even if he is, he fights through it. He has been a staple in the trenches for us.”
“He has never even missed a practice since I’ve been here,” said Coen, UMaine’s second-year offensive coordinator. “That’s very, very rare for an offensive lineman.”
Brooks said he has learned to take good care of his body and get rest to help avoid or recover from minor injuries.
“He’s the hardest-working guy out there,” said Picucci. “He’ll do anything you ask him. He’s everything you want in a football player.”
Brooks and his fellow offensive linemen have allowed only one sack this season and surrendered just 14 last year — tied for fourth fewest among the 12 Colonial Athletic Association teams.
“We want to be the best offensive line in the nation,” said the son of Elijah and Maureen Brooks. “We work real hard in practice to perfect our technique and come together.”
Brooks is happy with his career to date and feels he has improved every year. He was quick to point out that switching from tackle to guard was like starting all over again.
“Guard is different. I had to make some changes,” said Brooks who was a two-way tackle in high school. “I’ve got more knowledge of the plays and the technique. I’ve gotten more football smart over the years. Everything is coming easier now. I’m putting everything together.”
“He does all the little things right,” said Demby.
“It’s definitely nice running behind him,” said sophomore Josh Mack. “He always tells me to look for him in the end zone so he can pick me up.”
There were several things about UMaine that attracted Brooks when he was being recruited.
“It’s nice and quiet. (Former offensive line coach Jeff Ambrosie) was a good coach,” said Brooks, who is an accounting major. “The off-campus housing was nice and my teammates were good. And I liked the weight program.”
His decision to attend UMaine has worked out nicely for him and for the Black Bears, especially those who hadn’t given much thought to fashion.