NFL: Brooking ready for homecoming as a BroncoFrom Staff and Wire Reports
Keith Brooking will make what is likely to be his last trip to the Georgia Dome as a professional football player Monday night. The former Atlanta Falcons linebacker and Senoia native has certainly seen better days in the league.
But the soon to be 37-year-old’s love of the game lives on.
“I have a responsibility to do a job for my football team,” he said. “I’ll have to contain those emotions and do my job, just go out there and compete.”
Brooking expects to have family members in attendance for Monday night’s game featuring a pair of teams off to 1-0 starts on the season. No longer a star, or even a starter, he managed to play 11 downs in last week’s opener in Denver against Pittsburgh after missing the entire preseason with a hamstring injury suffered two days after he signed a contract with the Broncos.
While he’s adjusted to life outside Georgia, where he playing his entire career from youth league in the Coweta Recreation Department through his varsity days at East Coweta, four years at Georgia Tech and then becoming a first-round draft pick of the Falcons in 1998 in time for Atlanta’s only Super Bowl appearance, it’s still home.
“It’s home,” Brooking said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I have all my family and close friends coming to the game. It will be fun to play in front of them one last time there at the Georgia Dome, where it all started.”
Denver Hall of Fame quarterback and current executive vice president John Elway, though, showed how much they valued Brooking by keeping him on the roster during the final cuts of the preseason despite the 15-year NFL veteran unable to put forth much of an audition due to the injury.
“We’re going off reputation and the leadership that he can bring,” Elway told the Denver Post at the time.
Brooking was a five-time Pro Bowl selection from the Falcons in consecutive seasons from 2001-05 and started 128 consecutive games over his final eight seasons in Atlanta while recording over 100 tackles each year. Owner Arthur Blank held a special — and unprecedented — farewell reception in Brookings honor while on the verge of leaving the team and the state for the first time.
He started all but two games during his first two seasons in Dallas after signing a three-year contract with the Cowboys in March, 2008.
Heading into what became his final year in Dallas, a year after the team drafted Penn State linebacker Sean Lee in the first round, Brooking wasn’t ready to step aside, though he knew the eventual finality that a football career brings.
“This game has been such a big part of my life. So much of the things I have today, it’s because of the game of football. I have a wonderful family and football is up there with the most important things in my life. I know when that time comes, I’m going to miss it, and I still want to be involved in it in some way,” he said. “Right now I’m going to take this all in and enjoy it. When that day comes that I’ll have to make that decision to retire, I’ll be ready for it.”