Tracy Brooks was willing to do anything and everything to help the Salina Liberty a year ago. When the team's coaching staff asked Brooks to take on more responsibilities during the 2019 season, he proved more than capable of handling the added workload.

The Liberty will play in the 2019 Champions Indoor Football title game — Champions Bowl V — on Saturday night in Albuquerque, N.M., facing defending champions Duke City Gladiators in the season finale. Brooks has played a key role in getting the Salina team to this point.

He also played a role (albeit a smaller role) in 2018 when the Liberty reached the CIF Northern Division title game and came up a yard short of advancing to Champions Bowl IV.

“First and foremost, we’re happy to be back and to have the opportunity to be in the championship game after losing the way we lost last year," Brooks said. "After that game, people were going their own way. We had a different quarterback and different running back, and we had to replace some key positions in the secondary.

"Nobody believed we would be in this position, so we're really excited about that."

One task faced by the Liberty ownership and coaching staff was replacing Dominque Carson at running back. Carson led the CIF in 2018 in yards per game and yards per carry, and was second in the league in total yards rushing with 786. But Carson was also a member of the Texas Revolution when the 2019 season started.

Liberty management didn't have to look far for Carson's replacement. Brooks was already on their roster.

In 2018 Brooks finished third on the team in rushing (12 carries, 40 yards) and fourth on the team in receiving (19 catches, 167 yards). But head coach Heron O'Neal knew they had a player ready to step in.

"He's a guy that played his role last year and did whatever the team needed," O'Neal said. "He played running back, he played all three receiver spots and he did kick returns.

"This year he did the most with the opportunity given him by leading the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and has the most receiving yards by a running back. That's why he's a finalist for Offensive Player of the Year. He's a great kid and will give you the shirt off his back, and he's the ultimate team player."

The increased production has been impressive. Brooks currently leads the CIF in carries (167), rushing yards (754) and rushing touchdowns (24). He also has 49 receptions for 450 yards, and his receiving yards rank ninth in the league among all players.

"I was happy to be back playing in the backfield instead of wide receiver," Brooks said. "I'm not much of a wide receiver, but whatever it takes to win games, I'm going to do it."

Before the season began Brooks also spoke to many of his teammates about the potential this Liberty team might have, even with the significant turnover on the roster during the offseason.

His words now seem prophetic.

"I pretty much said that if everybody would buy in and believe in what the coaches want us to do as an organization, we could be in the same position as last year and this time be playing for a national championship," Brooks said.

"I love the game. Beliving in Coach O and what he's trying to do is why I came back. I was with the Salina Liberty two years ago, and seeing what he did in his first year, that was a big change for me and the team. I bought in and I was happy he was bringing me back."

Brooks, who turned 26 in May, admits he can't make a living playing football at the CIF level. The Liberty are about to play their 14th game in 2019 and players have to find a way to make ends meet, while also meeting the expectations and requirements of being part of a professional football team.

"There's a lot of sacrifices you make and everybody on this team is making sacrifices," Brooks said. "With the way the arena game is, you can be here today and gone tomorrow.

"You've got to keep grinding and never be complacent. It's a constant grind, but this game (Champions Bowl V), this is what you play the game for."