Hey Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s Throwback Thursday series. This weekly segment highlights a former Atlanta Falcons player and discusses their life and what they did for the franchise.
Whether you’ve been a fan since the inaugural season, or just became a fan recently, this series will give insight on players from the past. This week we will be focusing on linebacker Keith Brooking.
Keith Howard Brooking was born on Oct. 30, 1975 in Senoia, Georgia. He attended East Coweta High School located in Sharpsburg, Georgia. While at East Coweta, Brooking played both offense and defense, and was also voted Mr. East Coweta High School. Brooking then was recruited to play college football at nearby Georgia Tech.
At Georgia Tech, Brooking became the all-time leading tackler in Georgia Tech history with 467 tackles. He was voted a team captain by his teammates and was a finalist for the prestigious Dick Butkus Award. Brooking averaged 13.3 tackles per game in 1995 and in 1996 he had the second-most tackles per game in the ACC with 13.4 per game. His collegiate career ended with a victory over West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl, where he recorded an interception and 15 tackles.
With the 12th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected linebacker Keith Brooking. In his first season in Atlanta, Keith had 32 tackles, two forced fumbles, and an interception over 15 games. That season, the Falcons would also play in the first Super Bowl in franchise history. Although the Falcons lost, Brooking gained experience which would carry on throughout his career.
In 1999, Brooking would be given his chance to start, where he would for 13 games. His first career start was against the Minnesota Vikings, where he recorded eight tackles. In 2000, Brooking unfortunately was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury. 2001 would be Brooking’s best season yet, as he started, played 957 total snaps, and led the Falcons with 167 tackles and registered two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, nine passes defended and 3.5 sacks. He was also invited to his first Pro Bowl, becoming the first Falcon to play in the game since 1998. During the 2002 season, Brooking joined the ranks of Tommy Nobis, Fulton Kuykendall, Buddy Curry and Jessie Tuggle as the only Falcons to register 200 or more tackles in a season. He again was invited to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season.
In 2003, Keith Brooking was invited to his third straight Pro Bowl after registering a team-high 207 total tackles and career-high 130 solo tackles. In 2004, the Falcons reached the NFC championship game but were ultimately defeated by the Philadelphia Eagles 10-27. Brooking was named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl as he recorded a team-high 144 tackles. He finished the 2005 season leading the Falcons again in tackles with 150, and recorded a career-best four interceptions. He additionally was named to his fifth straight Pro Bowl, which would be the final time in his career.
In 2006, Keith Brooking again led the team with 165 tackles, making it the sixth year in a row. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he led the team with a season-high 18 tackles. After playing two more seasons and recording over 100 tackles in both years, Keith Brooking became a free agent on February 27, 2009.
Keith Brooking was signed by the Dallas Cowboys on February 28, 2009 where he would play for three seasons. Following the 2011 season, with the emergence of linebacker Sean Lee, the Cowboys decided not to re-sign him. On August 6, 2012 Keith Brooking signed a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos. Following that season in which he started 14 games, Keith Brooking retired from the NFL.
Outside of football, Keith Brooking established The Keith Brooking Children’s Foundation in 2003. The foundation located in Atlanta was inspired by his mother who was a foster parent while he was growing up. The foundation serves the needs of foster children in metro Atlanta. In 2002, Brooking was named the Atlanta Falcons’ Man of the Year for his extensive community involvement. He spent much of his offseason time raising awareness for his foundation and visiting local schools. In 2007, Keith Brooking was named to the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame.
I became a Falcons fan at age 6, during the 1996 NFL season. The first NFL Draft I watched was in 1998 when Keith Brooking was selected. Brooking goes down in Falcons history as one of the best linebackers the team has had, and trust me, they have had their share.
Let me know in the comments below some of your favorite Keith Brooking memories. As always, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Additionally, make sure to follow @The_Falcoholic on Instagram for up-to-date news and information. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics.