The Ravens will travel to Cleveland with heavy hearts this weekend.
Long-time assistant coach Clarence Brooks passed away Saturday morning at a hospital in Weston, Fla., after a battle with esophageal cancer. He was 65 years old.
“We knew he loved his players,” his wife Justa said. “Through all of this, we've found out how much his players loved him. We thank everyone for the loving support."
Brooks, best known as “CB” around the building, was the longest-tenured member of Baltimore’s staff.
He joined the Ravens in 2005 as the defensive line coach and quickly established himself as hard-nosed leader who was beloved by his players. He coached some of the best players in team history, including Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg, and helped continue the Ravens tradition of dominant defensive play.
Head Coach John Harbaugh called him the greatest defensive line coach he has ever been around.
“One of the finest coaches I have ever met, he changed the lives and influenced players and coaches for the better,” Harbaugh said. “He was a great man, loving husband and devoted father. He was as tough and determined in adversity as you’ll ever see and as loyal a friend as there is.”
“He was the sweetest man I've ever met in football,” Owner Steve Bisciotti said. “He was also as tough as nails and was as respected by everyone on our team as any coach who ever touched the Ravens. His impact was more than people on the outside could know. He will be so missed."
Brooks was revered throughout the Ravens organization. His shouts during practice echoed throughout the fields, and his energy never seemed to waver. The locker room had the utmost respect for Brooks and his contributions to the team, and that was evident throughout the last two seasons as he continued coaching despite the cancer diagnosis.
"Very few, if any, coaches influenced their players – on and off the field – like Clarence Brooks,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He was a teacher, a friend, a father figure to many and a great football coach. A lot of our defensive success over the years is due to his ability to get the most out of his players on the defensive line. This is a sad, sad day for our team and extended family.”
An incredibly emotional moment for Brooks was after last year’s Week 4 win at Pittsburgh. He had received the cancer diagnosis just a few days before the game, but had not told any of his players yet. After the Ravens beat their rival in overtime, Harbaugh gave Brooks the game ball.
Brooks was swarmed as he accepted the game ball, and he delivered a powerful speech.
“This game is nothing without players,” Brooks told the team. “I believe that now. I believed that when I first started. I’ll believe it when I’m finished coaching. It’s the players who make the game, and I’m just happy to be at the right place at the right time with a great group of guys like you.”
After news spread of Brooks’ passing Saturday morning, the outpouring of support from his colleagues and players was overwhelming.
“Clarence Brooks was a rare, special coach,” outside linebacker
“Coach Brooks was like a father figure to me and every other player he coached,” defensive tackle
This offseason Brooks transitioned into a role as a senior defensive assistant as he battled the illness. He still spent as much time as possible at the team facility despite undergoing intense treatment.
Brooks is survived by Justa, their son, Jason, and daughter, Adrienne, and their two grandchildren, Aviana and Avery.
Funeral details forthcoming.
Below is a collection of quotes from fellow coaches, players and members of the Ravens organization.
Head Coach John Harbaugh:
“Our heartfelt condolences and love go out to Justa and the Brooks family on the passing of Clarence. We loved that man! He is at peace now through the grace of Jesus Christ. He fought the good fight and won. One of the finest coaches I have ever met, he changed the lives and influenced players and coaches for the better. He was a great man, loving husband and devoted father. He was as tough and determined in adversity as you’ll ever see and as loyal a friend as there is. ‘C.B.’ will forever walk as a loved and cherished member of the Ravens family.”
General Manager & Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome:
"Very few, if any, coaches influenced their players – on and off the field – like Clarence Brooks. How fortunate are the Ravens to have had this special person in our lives for the past 12 years? He was a teacher, a friend, a father figure to many and a great football coach. A lot of our defensive success over the years is due to his ability to get the most out of his players on the defensive line. This is a sad, sad day for our team and extended family. Our hearts ache for Justa and the rest of Clarence’s family."
Owner Steve Bisciotti:
"This morning, the Bisciottis are so sad to hear about Clarence's passing. He was the sweetest man I've ever met in football. He was also as tough as nails and was as respected by everyone on our team as any coach who ever touched the Ravens. His impact was more than people on the outside could know. He will be so missed."
President Dick Cass:
“Clarence had a special rapport with his players. He was both beloved as a coach and as a person. His infectious laugh and welcoming smile will be greatly missed, not by just the players and his fellow coaches, but by everyone in our building."
Current OLB Terrell Suggs:
“Clarence Brooks was a rare, special coach. We had a relationship that became more than football; he was family. He was every bit the definition of the word ‘coach.’ He was firm and demanding when he needed to be, but was a father figure and caring at the same time. I will definitely miss my friend.”
Current DT Brandon Williams:
“Coach Brooks was like a father figure to me and every other player he coached. He made me the player I am today, but more importantly, helped me to be the man I am today. He always got the best out of you. He saw the potential in every player and did everything in his power to help you be the best you could be – on and off the field. Every day I walked in this building, no matter what was going on, he could always make me smile. I will miss him, and my heart goes out to the entire Brooks family.”
“Coach Brooks was a heck of a coach, but an even better man. He cared so much about all of us and could always pull the best out of you in any situation. Through him, I learned how to prepare better, practice better and play better. I will truly miss his coaching, his fellowship and his mentorship. Rest well, ‘C.B.’”
Linebackers Coach Don Martindale:
“Clarence Brooks is one of the finest human beings I have ever met. Selfishly speaking, you would like to say he was your best friend, but he was really everybody’s best friend. We are happy he is not suffering anymore. I love him like a brother, and I am going to miss him terribly.”
Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick (Who Hired Clarence in 2005):
"Whew, this hurts. What a man, what a coach, what an inspiration. Beyond being one of the best position coaches in the league, Clarence was one of the most respected people in the NFL. He was a great teacher and friend. His positive and upbeat, yet stern, way was special. The proof is in the pudding. Look at how players improved under him. It would be tough to find a more respected assistant in the NFL. My heart reaches out to Justa and his family."
Former Ravens DT Haloti Ngata:
“I am deeply saddened by the news of ‘C.B.’ passing away. I hope that I can help continue his legacy by the way I live and play. I played under ‘C.B.’ for nine years. In that time, he helped me go to five Pro Bowls and win a Super Bowl ring. He deserves a lot of that credit. He worked so hard with me and my Ravens teammates. This is tough news to swallow. I will miss you, Coach. Thank you for everything you taught me through the years – on and off the field. I love you, Clarence.”
Former Browns, Ravens & Dolphins DE Rob Burnett:
"I cried a few weeks ago when I found out about Clarence and his fight against cancer, and I immediately reached out to Justa and 'C.B.' His death rips at my heart. I loved Clarence. He was more than my coach. He was my friend, a mentor and a motivator. This is a sad day for all of those fortunate enough to have known this great person.”[The video below is from December when Brooks went public with his diagnosis.]