Brooking honored with surprise Atlanta send off

By CHRIS GOLTERMANN When Keith Brooking signed with the Dallas Cowboys in March, it came with little fanfare among the sum of the NFL's 30 franchises in the early days of this year's free-agency period. To Falcons fans, however, it truly meant goodbye after 11 seasons in Atlanta.
And for Brooking, it meant coming to grips with knowing his football home was going to be somewhere other than Georgia, where he's played at the youth, high school, college and pro levels before inking a three-year contract with Dallas. With NFL training camps scheduled to open this week, though, some of the former East Coweta High's biggest fans weren't about to see him off without a fond farewell. Which is why family, friends and special guests were at Georgia Tech's Wardlaw Center Saturday night to surprise Brooking with a send off that included former coaches at the youth, high school and professional levels. The event called "It Only Takes a Spark ..." was planned with help from his Children's Foundation to "pay tribute to Keith's reknown commitment to Atlanta both on and off the field." "I pretty much knew there was a pretty good chance I'd be leaving," said Brooking upon signing with Dallas. "It wasn't an easy decision for me. But I feel I made the right choice. There's absolutely no regrets." The event included words from Brooking's first youth coach, Carl McKnight of the Coweta Recreation Department and longtime ECHS head football coach Danny Cronic. Former Falcon linebacker Jessie Tuggle and head coach Dan Reeves also were expected to speak, as well as current Atlanta defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. The evening, emceed by Georgia Tech and Falcons radio broadcaster Wes Durham included video greetings from Newt Gingrich, NFL Hall of Fame lineman Anthony Munoz and country singer Garth Brooks. "We're hoping to make it a special night for Keith," said Graham prior to the ceremony. "It's a chance for all of us to give something back to him for all he's done for not only Atlanta, but this community."

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