Rasheed Black and Hassan Brockman have been playing organized football since they were 8 and 6 years old, respectively. In fact, growing up as youngsters playing Pop Warner football in Philadelphia, Black and Brockman often saw each other on the gridiron.
Their fathers have been close friends for many years, but the two talented athletes actually never got to know each other until their football paths crossed at George Washington High School.
Hassan Brockman Sr. became the wide receivers coach for Washington at the beginning of the 2011 season when Black and Brockman were beginning their sophomore year. Black was already a student at Washington, while Brockman was enrolled at Northeast. Neither was playing football yet, although both had aspirations to do so eventually.
Black joined Washington’s varsity team that year as a sophomore, and Brockman Sr. was there to help with the football transition. The following year, the younger Brockman couldn’t resist joining his father and Black at Washington. A bond formed immediately.
Brockman Sr. took the boys under his wing and began teaching them about the wide receiver position. The three of them began working out together, learning routes, developing chemistry and getting to know each other.
“We work out together all the time, just us three. We practice routes, work on things. We know what to do,” the younger Brockman said.
Last year, the two junior receivers didn’t see much game action on the field, as they gave way to some of the talented seniors Washington had. As seniors, only two games into this season, Black and Brockman are finally getting a chance to showcase their talents and are quickly making a name for themselves.
On Friday, Washington fell to West Catholic, 38-17, a team the Eagles beat in overtime last year. Nevertheless, Black and Brockman stood out as Washington’s two most talented offensive players. Both players pose incredibly difficult matchup problems for the opposition.
Last year, Washington averaged a little less than 16 passing attempts per game, and attempted only 25 or more passes twice all season. In two games this season, the Eagles have thrown the ball 24 and 25 times, respectively, with 17 of 25 total completions going to either Black or Brockman. The two explosive wideouts have accounted for 262 of Washington’s 390 total yards of offense.
Brockman, at 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds, serves as Washington’s “offensive weapon” type player. He plays receiver, cornerback and returns kicks and is always a threat to break open a large gain. Brockman said he tries to emulate shifty Oregon running back DeAnthony Thomas in the way he uses his speed to create matchup problems and excel in the open field.
On Friday, Brockman opened the game with a 70 yard kickoff return that set up GW’s first TD of the game, caught five balls for 66 yards and intercepted a ball in the end zone that he returned 64 yards, though the referee ruled Brockman fumbled after he was tackled despite appearing down by contact. Brockman said he just let the ball go after being tackled assuming the play was dead, but in retrospect realized he probably should have waited for the whistle.
“I rolled down and I just let go [of the ball], and the ref didn’t blow the whistle in time, so that was my mistake,” said Brockman, who finished with 214 all-purpose yards.
Black, at 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, is a truly gifted specimen and the ideal outside receiver. He is the perfect complement to Brockman pairing Brockman’s slot speed with his athletic outside play.
“I’m on the outside, he’s [Brockman] in the slot,” Black said. “When I get double-teamed, he’s always open. When he gets doubled-teamed, I’m always open. In the receiving corps, we’re the leaders. We like to start it off, and he’s an X-factor when it comes to special teams.”
Brockman echoed his friend and teammate’s sentiment.
“Me and him, we’re like a duo. If you stick me, he’s going to be open. If you stick him, I’m going to be open,” Brockman said.
Against West Catholic, Black caught four passes for 69 yards, including a 19-yard underthrown ball into double-coverage he had no business coming down with. He also had a 24-yard touchdown to give Washington a 14-8 lead with 3:09 left in the first quarter. However, with 2:15 left in the third quarter and Washington trailing, Black tweaked his ankle on a ball that wasn’t even intended for him. He did not return, hindering Washington’s offensive attack.
“It was an adjustment to the ball, I turned around too fast and it [ankle] got caught in the turf. The ball wasn’t thrown to me,” Black said.
Black was ready to get back out there, but the coaches didn’t want to risk further injury in a non-league game so early in the season. Black understood, but as a competitor, he wanted to help his team.
“If I was still playing,” Black said, “I felt I could have helped put more points on the board for us.”
Black is ranked by Philly.com as the 22nd best overall high school player in southeastern Pennsylvania and the No. 2 wide receiver. His athleticism is uncanny, but his demeanor, attitude, cadence and knowledge of the game are equally impressive. All of these things combined make him a legitimate threat at the next level.
Last season, Black finished with 10 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. In six quarters this season, he already has eight catches for 145 yards and a TD.
As for college, Black has already received interest from Pittsburgh, North Carolina State, Penn State, West Virginia and Rutgers. And does he have a preference?
“Wherever I can show my talents,” Black said.
Black and Brockman continue to build their close friendship on and off the field, and they’ll continue working with Brockman Sr., something that is extra special for his son.
“It’s good, because I have the view from him coaching me and being my dad on the field at the same time,” Brockman of his dad. “I have to live up to what he expects me to do from him teaching me my receiver skills.”
With his small stature, Brockman doesn’t have the physical gifts that Black has, so the transition to the next level of football might not come as easy.
Of course, he is determined to prove the doubters wrong. What Brockman lacks in size, he makes up with intelligence. Like Black, he has a high football IQ and can play multiple positions. Brockman has a unique knack for the ball and he can’t wait to prove his naysayers wrong.
“I’m definitely going to prove to them I’m ready for the next level at this size,” he said.
Despite starting the season 0-2, both players think this early-season adversity can motivate Washington heading into its next game Thursday night against West Chester Henderson.
“Going into a short week, I think we are ready,” Brockman said. “I could see it in guys’ faces that it hurt (to lose). We’re going to be ready to bounce back on Thursday.”
“It just put a chip on our shoulder going forward,” Black echoed. “We’re going to come out stronger.” ••