Former NFL and Florida Gator linebacker Brandon Spikes' upbringing in Shelby, North Carolina, did not match his hometown's motto: The City of Pleasant Living. Spikes' mother, Sherry Allen, worked 12-hour shifts to help support her family, and his father was never really in the picture.
"My dad was ... he was around, but I don't think he was present," Spikes said in the new Netflix docu-series "Untold: Swamp Kings."
But despite his father not being there for him, Spikes did have someone to look up to as a father-like figure in his brother, Breyon Middlebrooks. Breyon was just seven years older than Brandon, but he was role model and leader for Spikes. But Spikes and his family were not ready for what came next.
A First-Degree Murder Charge For Brandon Spikes' Brother
When Brandon was in middle school, Breyon was charged with first-degree murder and was given a life sentence without parole. He was involved in a drug deal gone bad in 2001, and after a first trial resulted in a hung jury he was convicted after a second trial in 2003. Life without parole. Middlebrooks insisted he didn't pull the trigger. Spikes believed him when he was arrested, and he believed him even years later while Spikes was in the NFL.
"That changed my life." Spikes said. "I was in the streets every day. I had three guns at the time, 'cause that's what I wanted to be. I wanted to be an adult."
But rather than travel down that same path, Spikes took this moment in life as a wake-up call.
"That's when I knew I had to quit playin' in the streets. Like, I knew I could've failed, too. Football was my way out, out of it all."
And, boy, was he right.
Spikes' great football career started in high school, where he became a five-star recruit and have his choice of where to play college football for the next four years. Spikes chose to be a Gator at the University of Florida, where he recorded 307 total tackles and 31.5 tackles for loss and six interceptions, with four resulting in touchdowns. Spikes played for head coach Urban Meyer and alongside players such as Tim Tebow and Brandon Siler; he won two national titles and was named an All-American his junior and senior years during his four-year career in Gainesville.
Next for Spikes was the 2010 NFL Draft, where he was selected by the New England Patriots as the 62nd overall pick in the second round. Spikes spent four years with the Patriots and two years with the Buffalo Bills — a six-year career in which Spikes recorded 349 tackles and six forced fumbles. He started Super Bowl XLVI for the Patriots, who lost to the New York Giants.
Today, Spikes — who turns 36 on Sept. 3 — recently strolled back into the Gators' locker room as a student assistant coach, returning to UF to finish his degree and reunite with the game he loves. Current Gators head coach Billy Napier said that Spikes "really cares about the University of Florida and what this place did for him not only as a football player but as a man, as a student. That helped get his path in life, and he's had legitimate success at the professional level."
Brandon Spikes could have let his brother's incarceration affect him in a negative way. Instead, he used it as a life lesson to change his own life for the better and used football as his escape from that life. And he is ready to be a mentor to current and future Florida Gators on and off the field.
— BrandonSpikes55 (@brandonspikes55) June 24, 2023
Middlebrooks is still behind bars all these years later, but Spikes still thinks about him every day — from his days at Florida to the NFL and life afterward.
"There's not a day goes by that I don't think about my brother," Spikes told the Tampa Bay Times. "He's kind of like motivation for me."
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