James Brooks – a man of three cultures

The Prague Lions open their 2018 season next weekend in the Czech Republic when they face the Prague Black Panthers in a rematch of the championship final.

The Lions have added extra muscle to their defensive line with the return of James Brooks (Arizona State) who played for IBM Big Blue in Japan’s X League in 2017 helping them reach the championship final, the X Bowl.

Brooks played for the Lions in 2016 when they reached the Czech Bowl and lost in a controversial last-play call by the referees.

The 6’5″, 270 lb Brooks, from Flagstaff, Arizona, has accumulated plenty of frequent flyer miles since 2013 when he first played overseas after an outstanding college career. Since leaving college football Brooks has played in Germany with the Cologne Falcons (2013), Poland with Kozly Poznan (2014, 2015) and the Czech Republic with the Prague Lions (2016). Since 2014 he has also doubled up, playing for IBM in the X League where he has been All League four years running.

James Brooks has been playing in Japan for IBM Big Blue since 2014

American Football International caught up with Brooks as he prepares for  the upcoming season in the Czech Republic.

AFI: You are one of the few players in the world who plays in two different countries almost every season. You play in the Czech League in Europe and then the X league in Japan with IBM Big Blue. How did you get started doing this?

Brooks: First let me start by saying thank you for this opportunity, I appreciate it very much. Technically, I don’t play in two countries every season. I have a couple times and I’ve built the connections to be able to do so and it works well for me.

AFI: You have had a chance to play at the highest levels in both Japan and Europe. What is the difference?

Brooks: To me, the biggest difference is the preparation and attention to detail the Japanese bring to the table. Playing in Europe first then going to Japan I had a chance to see, first hand, how Japan is a couple notches higher when it comes to level of competition, preparation, film study, coaching, etc.

AFI: How do you feel about the quality of football in Japan compared to Germany or the Czech Republic?

Brooks: I don’t want to seem to harsh on the American-Football in Europe because I know a lot of people who do great things and work very hard improving the level of play in Europe. I would say that Germany is the highest level in Europe and I think they have some awesome athletes who will have opportunities to play college ball in the States. The same can be said for other countries as well, I just think Germany is the leader right now.

With that said though, Japan is level higher simply because of the organization, preparation, commitment and attention to details. Not to mention, many of the Japanese players begin playing at an earlier age and I think that makes a huge difference.

Jaemes Brooks making a tackle for Kozly Poznan in Poland

AFI: How did you end up in Europe and then Japan?

Brooks: I started off, in 2013, in Germany. Then I headed to Poland in 2014. While playing in Poland in 2014 I was in contact with a friend of mine who was helping recruit for the league in Japan. Eventually things worked out and I played my first season in Japan the fall of 2014. So that’s pretty much how it all started and that was the first year I played in two countries the same season. In 2015 I only coached in Poland before heading back to play in Japan. In 2016 I took on another challenge of playing/coaching in Czech Republic before returning to Japan for my third season there. In 2017 I only played in Japan, which was nice, it gave me the opportunity to actually have an off-season and it felt good. Now, as we’re getting into 2018 I’ll coach/play in Czech Republic and return to Japan in the summer. I truly enjoy it and i’m grateful for all the opportunities that have presented themselves for me. Being able to make connections, make friends, travel and play football has been very special, to say the least.

AFI: You spend your year in three different cultures. What do you miss from each when you are away?

Brooks: When I’m away from Japan I miss the food, for sure. When I’m away for the States I miss my family and that’s tough but they’re proud of me and want to see me doing what makes me happy, so that’s extra motivation. Living in Europe is my favorite so when I’m away I miss it a lot. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some great friends throughout Europe and it’s always nice to go and visit and make new memories while reminiscing about old ones. Shout-out to all my people around the world! Much love!

AFI:  With all this traveling, what different foods have you grown to enjoy?

Brooks: Well, nowadays I only eat vegan or vegetarian dishes. Before that I was all about the Japanese food like; sushi, karage, yaki-niku, ramen and onigiri, just to name a few.

AFI: What are the biggest differences between the cultures?

Brooks: Obviously there are cultural differences everywhere you go but to me there’s not too many drastic differences between the States and Europe. Of course you have the minor differences and language barriers but other than that, it’s pretty similar. Japan is a different world. A completely different culture and it’s amazing. Europe also has its big tourist spots and amazing sights, cities and history, but when I’m in Japan I always feel like i’m in a different world. It very interesting and fun but can also be a bit much if you’re not use to it it can’t adapt.

AFI: Which one do you enjoy the most? (I know, tough question)

Brooks: Yeah, that’s tough but I have to go with Europe. I’ve really enjoyed all the countries I’ve lived in or visited, in Europe, and I have a few more spots to check off my bucket-list.

AFI: How much longer do you think you will continue?

Brooks: I don’t see an end in sight, right now. I feel good and I want to continue to dominate wherever I’m at.

AFI: What do you bring to the different teams you play for?

Brooks: Honestly I think I bring the same things to the teams I’ve been apart of. A high level of experience, coaching experience, high football IQ, leadership, game changing ability and being a great teammate.

AFI: Have you picked up any foreign languages?

Brooks: Nothing fluent, unfortunately. A little Japanese and Polish, that’s about it.

AFI: We know that football and traveling are not your only passions. You are heavily involved in music.

Brooks: Yes, I also make music and it’s something i’m very passionate about. My latest album “ViiiBE” was released in September of 2017. Here’s a link—->www.viiibe.bandcamp.com

Interested in playing American football overseas?

Register on Europlayers.com.

Europlayers is the largest online database of American football players, teams and coaches.  It is a connector, bringing together and introducing athletes to overseas teams. On the site you can begin researching teams around the world.  Once you create a profile, you become searchable by hundreds of American football clubs around the world.


Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.