Pitt put the finishing touches on its 2021 recruiting class on Wednesday, locking down a top-25 class for the first time since 2006. And in addition to the scholarship athletes Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt staff brought in, they landed a WPIAL standout as a preferred walk-on, as Taelen Brooks, a two-way contributor at Woodland Hills High School, committed to the program on national signing day.
“I’d like to thank all the friends, family and coaches along the way that helped me on my journey through high school,” Brooks wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “After thinking over the last couple months, me and my family have decided the best place for me academically and athletically is the University of Pittsburgh.”
The 6’1”, 180-pound athlete holds two-star ratings from Rivals and 247Sports and was ranked as the No. 4 athlete and No. 49 recruit in Pennsylvania in the 2021 class by Penn Live in 2020. Brooks had one Division I offer from Central Michigan, and he held additional offers from FCS program St. Francis and Division II programs Bluefield State and West Virginia State. But there was no shortage of Division I programs interested in Brooks, as he had also been in contact with Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Wisconsin offensive coordinator and Pittsburgh-area native Joe Rudolph was one of Brooks’ primary points of contact during his recruitment, but Pitt tight ends coach Tim Salem made a more appealing pitch and secured his signature. It also seems there was pre-existing interest, as Brooks attended Pitt’s prospect camp in 2019 and committed less than two weeks after Pitt extended him a preferred walk-on offer on Jan. 22.
Over at Wolvarena, Brooks made a name for himself as a running back and outside linebacker, but he now now lists himself as a safety at Pitt. As a rusher, he came up with 300 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in his senior season, despite missing two of Woodland Hills’ eight games in 2020 with a sprained ankle. He also showed off his ability to shed tackles, bowl over defenders, and gain additional yardage throughout his career.
With that said, it seems Brooks will more likely see action on special teams and defense, and he was equally impressive in those facets of the game. As a linebacker in 2020, Brooks finished with 20 tackles and broke up two passes, and the year before, he earned second-team all-conference honors for his defensive work in the WPIAL’s Big 56 Conference.
Brooks is one of four preferred walk-ons Pitt has added this offseason. He joins fellow WPIAL standout Matt Metrosky, an offensive lineman out of Greensburg Central Catholic High School, as well as out-of-state recruits Nick Lapi and Ak’Bar Shabazz II. Lapi is a running back and linebacker out of Northern Highlands High School in Allendale, New Jersey, and Shabazz is a cornerback out of Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.