When it comes to game-winning strategies, 21-year-old defender John Brooks knows how to get his head in the game.
His tie-breaking header during Team USA’s opening match of the World Cup against longtime rivals Ghana nearly doubled the U.S.’s chances of advancing out of their group – and instantly made the 6’4″ substitute-turned-superstar one of the most famous members of the United States Men’s National Team.
For Brooks, the goal was a literal dream come true.
“I told some teammates that I dreamed that I scored in the 80th minute and we won the game,” Brooks told the Associated Press. “And now it was the 86th minute, and we won.”
To supplement his overnight promotion from second string to an American household name, here are five things you need to know about the man of the hour, John Brooks.
1. He has never lived in the United States.
While Brooks has U.S. citizenship, he grew up in Berlin, Germany, where his father, an American military serviceman and Chicago native, was stationed. His mother, whom he describes as “the most important person in my life,” is German, and brought Brooks up bilingual. Brooks is one of five German-American players on Team USA; a quick look at his Twitter or Instagram accounts showcases his interchangeable use of both languages.
2. He’s been playing soccer, or, "fussball," since he was a toddler.
Brooks started playing soccer when he was five years old. What began as a way to connect with his friends in the Hertha BSC youth academy turned into a professional contract and rank as a top five defender in the second league of the Bundesliga during the 2012-2013 season. Despite his German roots, Brooks says his choice to take his loyalties overseas was “not a hard decision.”
3. He’s a record setter.
Not only is he the acclaimed hero – the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln, according to Wikipedia – who brought the U.S.’s string of World Cup defeats by Ghana to a dramatic end, he’s the first U.S. substitute to ever score a goal in all 84 years of World Cup history. Did we mention he’s only 21 years old?
4. He sports his heritage on his elbows.
The record-setting defender is also a trendsetter in the tattoo department. He boasts one tattoo on each elbow – the one on the left an outline of Berlin with a star on his childhood neighborhood, the one on the right an outline of Illinois with a star on Chicago, his father’s hometown.
5. Not all of his tattoos have meant good feelings for Brooks.
Back in April of this year, in the middle of Hertha BSC’s debut season in the Bundesliga, Brooks was benched by coach Jos Luhukay for a “large-scale back tattoo,” which Luhukay was worried might lead to inflammation or infection at the site of stitching. Brooks was not even allowed to travel with the team during this event – a punishment that must have stayed with him as a propellant toward success.