Matt Brooks is the pastor of the 3,000-member Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham. He’s also a huge OU football fan.
Brooks comes by it honest. His father, Mike Brooks, is the official OU football statistical historian, the man who has all the numbers going back to the early days of Sooner football.
I’ve watched Matt grow up. He’s a 2000 Blanchard High School graduate, went on to play baseball at East Central University and eventually was called into the ministry. He came to Alabama after pastoring five years in Roswell, N.M.
So I called Matt this week, figuring he had quite the perspective on the Sugar Bowl. He’s back in Oklahoma this week, visiting his family in Blanchard and his in-laws in Red Rock.
Matt said Alabama is a lot like Oklahoma. Mild summers, mild winters, “even milder Mexican food.” And the three F’s: “Faith, family and football.”
“Before I left, there wasn’t a single Alabama fan that I talked to … scared at all of playing Oklahoma,” Matt said. “There’s not a worry one.”
Maybe there shouldn’t be. Matt knows it’s a tough assignment for OU. He’s watched both teams play every game this season.
“The only advantage we have is our mascot,” Matt said. “A live Schooner flying down the field beats a fake elephant with pants any day. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see the Schooner flying down the Sugar Bowl much at all.
“Alabama has very few weaknesses. Phenomenal athletes everywhere. Offense, special teams, and their defense is what they’re known for anyway.”
Matt referenced the David and Goliath story. Except Bama’s giant “is a 5-foot-6, four-time national championship coach who wants to beat Stoops. It’s going to be a wonderful game. My heart sings Boomer, but I can’t overwhelm the factual knowledge. 38-17.”
But Matt said OU is a popular foe in his adopted state.
“Alabamans have a tremendous respect for Oklahoma,” Matt aid. “A lot of ‘em appreciate the historic Oklahoma-Nebraska matchups. They appreciate the OU-Texas rivalry. There’s a mutual respect.
“And we’ll have half the state cheering for us, because they want Alabama to lose. All Auburn fans have an appreciation for our form of crimson.”
But respect only goes so far. It’s probably a good thing he’s visiting back in Oklahoma this week.
“There’ll be some ribbing when I get back,” he said. “I’ll have Crimson Tide magnets all over my office.”