2022 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Steel Valley’s Cruce Brookins

Thursday, June 23, 2022 | 5:11 PM

Editor’s note: The Tribune-Review and the TribLive High School Sports Network are profiling each member of the 25-player Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star team. The players will be recognized July 15 during HSSN Media Day at Kennywood Park.

During the 2022 Steel Valley football season, running back Nijhay Burt garnered most of the attention.

Burt rushed for 2,055 yards and 35 touchdowns in helping the Ironmen to an 11-1 record and a WPIAL Class 2A Allegheny Conference title. Burt is headed to Eastern Illinois to continue his career.

But there was another player on the team who somewhat flew under the radar. It was junior quarterback/safety Cruce Brookins, who rushed for 1,072 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also intercepted five passes.

“Cruce was overshadowed by Nijhay,” Steel Valley coach Ray Braszo said. “He’s a special player. When college coaches look at him, he checks at the boxes. Besides talent, he’s a great leader on and off the field. He’s a hard worker and an outstanding student.”

Brookins, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, has received five offers so far: Akron, Fordham, Kent State, North Carolina A&T and West Virginia. He alsohas talked to numerous other schools, including Pitt, Cincinnati and Penn State.

“I expect more to come,” Brookins said. “I just have to continue to work hard, and good things will happen.”

Brookins prefers to play defense, and college coaches are recruiting him as a defensive back.

“I like to hit people,” Brookins said. “I’m not fond of getting hit. I expect my role on offense will expand this season. We’ll probably throw more so I’ve been working on my arm and throwing to wide receivers a lot this summer.”

It’s not the Brookins can’t throw. He wasn’t asked to, giventhe way Steel Valley ran the football with Burt and Brookins. He completed 33 of 56 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns.

“We’ll do a lot more with Cruce,” Braszo said. “He runs our spread offense really well. People don’t realize how fast he is. Once he gets through the line, he’s gone.”

Brookins said he relishes being a leader. He and linebacker Angel Herrera will make the calls on defense. Brookins runs the secondary.

Brookins said he grew up watching former West Virginia and NFL wide receiver Tavon Austin make plays, but it was his older brother Cameron who was his biggest influence.

“I loved watching my brother’s team play,” Brookins said. “I also loved watching the 2016 team play. They were crazy good. They mercy-ruled everyone.”

That team featured Paris Ford and was the WPIAL and PIAA Class 2A champion.

“I think we have a good chance at being really good,” Brookins said. “We just have to continue to work hard and get better.”

And Brookins expects to lead the way.

Cruce Brookins

Steel Valley



Quarterback, safety

Offers: Akron, Fordham, Kent State, North Carolina A&T and West Virginia

2021 stats: 33 of 56 passes for 339 yards and 4 TDs, 138 carries for 1,072 yards and 16 TDs. He had 49 tackles (10 solo, 39 assists), 5 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries.

Highlights: Hudl

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.


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