Track, music, TikTok: Texas Longhorns' Charles Brockman knows all about managing hurdles
Oftentimes, when Charles Brockman III sings, a smile spreads across his face and his eyes close, as if he's going to that euphoric place only musicians know. His hands fly to his chest or groove to the melody. The Texas track and field athlete loves to perform.
TikTok is one of Brockman's stages. His 2 million followers on the video-sharing platform know him as theonlycb3, who writes, films and produces comedic video clips. What they might not know is that the UT senior is one of the best college 400-meter hurdlers in the country.
At the Texas Relays in March, Brockman clocked a time of 49.78 seconds in the 400 hurdles. It's the sixth-fastest in Division I this outdoor season.
Brockman, who transferred from Mississippi State in 2019, has starred in track since he picked up the sport when he was 7. He found his athletic calling with the hurdles when he was 11 and has won numerous Junior Olympic championships.
But the Renaissance man has been singing, dancing and acting for even longer than that.
Brockman, a former theater kid who played the French horn for the Plano Senior High School band and performed in his church choir, grew up listening to oldies music, the songs from his parents’ generation. Brockman enjoys music from legend Anita Baker as much as from newcomers Chloe and Halle.
“If I’m going on a walk with my mom and I play that type of music, she’s like, ‘You don’t have to play that for me. You can listen to what you listen to,’” Brockman said. “And I’m like, ‘This is what I listen to.’”
An R&B and hip-hop fan, Brockman has recorded covers of songs by artists such as Beyoncé and Jay Z, Adele and Jhené Aiko for his YouTube channel. He started making music during his freshman year of high school when he came up with enough money to purchase studio equipment for his bedroom.
In his rendition of neo soul singer SZA’s lovelorn track “Garden (Say It Like Dat),” Brockman’s delivery is smooth, like the soul music that raised him, and he doesn’t shy away from vocal runs or vibrato. He recently released an original single entitled “Better Days,” a gospel-inspired song in which he talks to God about his trials.
Brockman is just as emotive on TikTok, but much sillier. He joined the app around the time many others did: the onset of the pandemic lockdown in spring 2020. His involvement on the social media network was initially a solution to his boredom since he couldn’t compete.
“I was watching videos a lot, but then I would see stuff and I’m like, ‘I think I could do that or put my own spin on it,’” he said.
Some of his most popular videos on the platform are his clips that reimagine scenes from popular movies and TV shows. He’s created a compilation of TikToks that see him reenact sequences from the “Twilight” films. Brockman, an interpersonal communication student and an aspiring actor, pokes fun at the melodrama in the movies through his delivery of the lines, use of special effects and performance of his own stunts.
His TikTok followers see a side of him that those in the track world might not know about, but Brockman’s father, who once doubled as his track coach, has seen that creative side on display since his son danced along to Barney at day care and performed circus skits with his cousins.
These artistic inclinations are what the elder Brockman, a former standup comedian, occasional TV extra and short film maker, hoped would manifest in his son, who comes from a long line of entertainers.
The elder Brockman left his standup career to spend more time with his only child, who also shares his birthday.
Together, they watched TV shows such as "SpongeBob SquarePants" and bonded over their mutual love for art. “Holes,” the 2003 movie based on Louis Sachar’s novel about a young man who is sent to a juvenile detention camp, was one of their favorites.
“I would always sing the song, ‘You got to go, and dig those holes,’” Brockman’s father said, singing the lines. “When I was taking him to school in the mornings when he was still in a car seat, I would start singing it and he would be in the back (singing), ‘Dig it, oh oh oh.’”
Besides singing “Dig It” with his father, Brockman enjoyed watching comedians Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. Viola Davis and Samuel L. Jackson are two of his other favorite actors. If he can’t break into acting someday, he'd like to write or produce.
Brockman’s father is proud of his multitalented son, who reminds him of himself, but a “step above.” He wants to see him embrace his creative side but would also like to see him run fast. That’s one reason the elder Brockman is happy his son transferred to UT’s track program.
“I’d really like to see him go professional in track and then maybe make the Olympic team,” Brockman’s father said.
“If he wanted to get his own studio or production company or whatever, then that will pay for it. And he could still do what he loves because he loves competing. In five to 10 years, I’d really like to see him doing a lot of everything.”
Everything is what Brockman is doing. He’s training hard to make it to the next level and shave even more off an already speedy 400-meter hurdles time. He’s also creating, whether that’s vibing to a song or making funny videos.
In one clip from another of Brockman’s popular TikTok compilations, he does an impression of Troy Bolton, the protagonist in the 2006 Disney Channel movie “High School Musical.” The scene Brockman mimics is one in which Bolton sings “Get ’Cha Head in the Game,” a pop number about the identity crisis he feels as a basketball player who also loves the arts.
“Why am I feeling so wrong?” the character sings. “My head’s in the game, but my heart’s in the song.”
This inner conflict doesn’t exist for Brockman. It’s OK with him that some passersby on campus know him as the guy from TikTok and those in the track world know him for something else. Embracing all of his passions takes the pressure off and makes him feel less confined.
Maybe that’s why he’s an ultracompetitor once the starting pistol sounds. And when he sings, he goes to that special place.
“You have to do that in order to stay sane and put your talents in other things,” Brockman said. “Because if you have talents in multiple things, just use them all and eventually … maybe all of them can take off."