In this weekly feature, we’ll take a look at what Tech’s finest are up to since leaving the Institute. This week, we focus on Keith Brooking.
Keith Brooking’s football story played out like a kid’s dream: a Sharpsburg, Georgia product, Brooking was selected 12th overall by the Atlanta Falcons after a banner collegiate career at Georgia Tech. He would lead the Falcons defense for over a decade and not leave the state to play football until his 12th year in the NFL, becoming a middle linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos before retiring in 2013.
Following his retirement, Brooking said what most players do, that he wanted to have more time to focus on his family, namely his four children. However, now 9 nine years on from stepping away from the game, Brooking is living out that credo and setting a strong example for former players on how to maximize your time and remain motivated and fulfilled after shifting gears.
Since the Brooking family settled in Bluffton, South Carolina near Hilton Head, he has committed himself fully to showing up for his kids, and is a mainstay at dance competitions and basketball games for his daughters and football and baseball games for his sons.
For him, it’s about showing up. “Football dads...they’re nothing compared to the dance moms. It’s really cool going there and supporting her. It’s hard to relate to it, but [I try] to do his best,” he quipped when asked about the competition dance scene.
I can imagine Brooking practicing routines at home with his daughter, running her through drills on the eight count and pumping in fake crowd noise to make sure she keeps her focus. Brooking never did anything halfway, and I’m sure being a dance dad is no different. Between coaching his sons at the youth football level and guiding his daughter through dance, perhaps it was that involvement that led him back to the field last year.
In 2020, as his oldest son entered high school, Brooking worked to start a football program at the local Cross Schools, acting as a coach for the inaugural season. The team went 7-1 with an all freshman team, and as the school adds grades, the team and program will continue to grow with it. While Brooking may no longer be a part of the staff, the opportunity to get back in football and give back to the community left him with a strong feeling of lassitude.
“I’ve gotten so much joy from starting the program there and coaching the boys and giving back to the game that has given so much back.”
Brooking also runs a football clinic every year in South Georgia with fellow Jacket alumni Buddy Curry, another way for him to stay close to the game. But at this point, I expect his true calling is dance, even if he can’t quite admit it yet.