LA CROSSE, Wis. -

As the Div. III Outdoor Track and Field Championships approach this weekend in La Crosse, UW-L senior Troy Brooks is ranked fifth in the country in the long jump. Getting to this point, however, has been a long, long journey.

"I am the oldest guy on the team, he said. "But I am very proud of it."

Brooks is 26 years old. The day before he left for college at UW-Platteville from his hometown of Milwaukee, his son was born.

"I love him. It's definitely been a challenge, but I think that's what's making me a man."

That's only the first step in Troy's long journey. His first year at Platteville got off on the wrong foot.

"I just didn't like anything about Platteville. I didn't know anyone there, I didn't have any friends or anything like that."

He left after one year and enrolled at Milwaukee Area Technical College to study dental technology.

"I learned how to make crowns and bridges and procelain fused metal crowns and things like that."

That didn't work out either.

"After that, I went to UW-Madison for track and field. I trained with them. I didn't actually attend the school, but I had the pleasure to train with the entire team."

As much as he loved it, track and field isn't a career.

"I wanted to go to school. I was at the point where I wanted to go to school and get my degree because I knew I was a special guy and I needed to be doing something with my life."

The next stop on Troy's journey was La Crosse. He enrolled at Western Technical College, while still running on the side.

"I would do workouts at Western Tech, even if it meant using a bare gym floor," he said.

That's when he got in touch with UW-La Crosse Men's Track and Field Coach Josh Buchholtz.

"The first time I had contact with Troy was a cold email, cold contact," Buchholtz said. "He goes, I'm looking to come to school. I want to go back to school. I want to make my life right."

"I just wanted to be a part of a team," Brooks said. "After talking with him, here I am."

Troy's career is almost at the finish line. He's proof that age is just a number.

"It's just a great, great story," Buchholtz said. "I'll put it out there: this is one of my, when we look back on things, and they say what are the most memorable times? Having Troy come through here, I don't want to diminish anything else from the rest of the guys that graduated here, but it's something to be said that this individual was pretty much down on life there for a while, and he decided he wanted to do things the right way, and he did them."