Monday, October 19, 2009

Keith Brooking's enthusiasm infectious for Dallas Cowboys

By BRANDON GEORGE / The Dallas Morning News

IRVING – As Dallas Cowboys receiver Miles Austinraced into the end zone last week in overtime against Kansas City, not far behind him was veteran linebacker Keith Brooking.

Brooking was on the sideline right in front of Austin when he caught the ball at the 48. As Austin pulled away from the Kansas City defense en route to the winning touchdown, Brooking ran down the sideline with his arms in the air, jumping in celebration.

Austin said he saw Brooking's reaction when he watched a replay of his touchdown.

"It was awesome," Austin said, smiling. "Not only is he running around all over the place when he's on defense, he's running around for the offensive guys when we're on offense. It's great to have a guy like that."

Brooking's exuberance has been a typical scene this season.

His high energy and raw emotion make him a natural leader. He's quickly earned the respect of his new Cowboys teammates since signing a three-year contract in late February.

For the first time in his 12-year NFL career, Brooking is playing for a team other than the Atlanta Falcons. That makes Sunday's home game against Atlanta a special one for Brooking.

"It will be very exciting. I've had it circled on my calendar since I signed here," Brooking said. "I'd be lying to you if I told you that I didn't."

Brooking is in uncharted territory playing football outside his home state of Georgia for the first time.
Born in Senoia, Ga., Brooking became one of the best defensive players in Georgia Tech history before the Falcons made him a first-round draft choice in 1998.

In Atlanta, Brooking was named to five consecutive Pro Bowls from 2001 to 2005. His best seasons in Atlanta came in 2002 (212 tackles) and 2003 (207 tackles) under Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who was then the Falcons defensive coordinator.

Brooking, who has started 133 consecutive games at middle linebacker since 2001, said his move to the Cowboys was made easier because of his experience with Phillips. Brooking leads the Cowboys with 37 tackles (29 solo) through five games.

"I've really enjoyed my time here. It's been a great experience," Brooking said. "I think I've fit right in with these guys and what we're trying to do."

Talk to anyone in the locker room, and they rave about Brooking.

"He's added fire. He's added passion. He's very productive," linebacker Bradie James said. "I'm just happy that we got Atlanta's seconds."

Added nose tackle Jay Ratliff: "He came in with the attitude that he wanted to work and just be a great teammate. He plays with a lot of emotion and we just feed off of that. You can't help but follow a guy like that."

Linebacker Anthony Spencer was answering mundane question after mundane question last week before he was asked about Brooking. Instantly, he lit up, flashing an ear-to-ear smile.

"I love playing with Keith," Spencer said. "He loves the game so much. I don't see him retiring any time soon. He's an old guy, but you don't see it on the field at all."

Or on the sideline.

Asked last week if he's noticed his players being more vocal this season, Phillips quipped, "Well, you notice Keith Brooking because he runs up and down the field when the offense is out there."
Phillips said he was impressed with how Brooking rallied the Cowboys a week ago after they fell behind Kansas City, 10-0, in the second quarter.

"He was coming by, talking to all the players offensively and defensively, 'We're going to win this game. We're going to win this game,' " Phillips said. "Real positive attitude. That's what you want. I think everybody felt that, but he was going around saying it to everybody and going out on the field and backing it up. He's come in and become a leader."


Ht., Wt.: 6-2, 242
Position: Middle outside linebacker
Age: Turns 34 on Oct. 30
NFL career: 12th season (first with Cowboys, 11 with Atlanta Falcons)
Family: Wife, Holly, daughter, Ella, and son, Logan.
Notable: Brooking led Atlanta in tackles the last eight seasons. ... He was a rookie on the Falcons' 1998 Super Bowl team. ... He's one of two players in Falcons history to record 200 or more tackles in a season twice. ... He's one of only three players in Falcons history to play in five consecutive Pro Bowls. ... When he left Georgia Tech, he was the career tackles leader with 467.