"When you admit something like I did, people think it's going to be all love, all Disney. It's not," he said. "Some people were like, hey, I really don't know about this."
Brooks became only more determined to get well. He began weekly sessions with a psychologist, which have continued this Super Bowl week via FaceTime. He kept anxiety medicine on hand for emergencies. He began an offseason of personal work and discovery.
But first he made a visit. A couple of months after last winter's revelation, on the day after a snowstorm, he drove an hour into Delaware to speak to the children of Southern Elementary.
He had been invited there, via a random Twitter message, by fifth-grade teacher Emily Schussler, who was stunned he actually came.
"He walked through the door and I said, 'Oh my God, you actually showed up?'" she recalled. "I can't explain how incredible he is."
Brooks did more than show up. After his speech, he visited with a boy who suffers from such anxiety that he spent the days hiding beneath his hoodie. After a quiet conversation, Brooks took a piece of notebook paper and wrote him an inspirational message.
"I think when you get into this position, whether you like it or not, you're on a platform," Brooks said. "The good you can do from this platform far exceeds anything you can do individually."
It's been all good for him since then, as he made his first Pro Bowl, not allowing a sack in 16 regular-season games, and teaming with Lane Johnson for what might be the best right side of an offensive line in football.
"But the thing that I'm most proud of is, I played all 16 games without having anxiety, without missing a game. That was my biggest goal," Brooks said. "I'm more confident in myself than I've ever been. I'm more secure than I've ever been."
So, on Sunday, somewhere in the tightening hours before the Super Bowl, he will vomit. But only once. It will not scare him. It will not own him.
"After I throw up, I'll literally laugh," said Brandon Brooks, confident and secure. "Then I'll go play."
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