Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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Keith Brooking, Atlanta Falcons
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44. . LB. (1998-08). Keith Brooking. 16. player

  • 2x Second-Team All-Pro (2002, 2004)
  • 5x Pro Bowl (2001-05)
  • Led Falcons in tackles six years in a row (2001-06)
  • 882 career tackles, 246 assists in Falcons uniform

Linebacker Keith Brooking was already a local hero by the time he got to the Falcons. Brooking starred in high school at East Coweta. He would go on to be one of the greatest college players for the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when the Falcons used the No. 12 overall pick on the local product out of Atlanta in the 1998 NFL Draft.

Brooking’s rookie season in the league would coincide with the Falcons’ first run to the Super Bowl in 1998. Though not yet a starter, Brooking would do enough on Dan Reeves’ squad to earn a starting spot next year in 1999. For the next 10 years, Brooking was the signature player in the Falcons defense.

A tackling machine, Brooking would lead the team in that category an impressive six years in a row from 2001 to 2006. His prowess in the middle of the Falcons defense really took off in 2001 when he was the first Atlanta player since the 1998 Super Bowl season to reach the Pro Bowl. Brooking would rattle off five-straight Pro Bowl nods during his Falcons career from 2001 to 2005.

Twice was he named a second team All-Pro at middle linebacker. For a time there, Brooking was one of the three best middle linebackers in football, alongside Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens and Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears. While both of those defensive signal callers ended up being first ballot Pro Football Hall of Famers, Brooking was every bit as good of them in his five-year prime.

Brooking would be in Atlanta from the 1998 Super Bowl run to the entire Michael Vick Experience to the first year of the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era of Falcons football. However, he would not retire as a lifelong Falcon.

Brooking would sign a three-year deal to play with the Dallas Cowboys beginning in 2009. After one last season with the 2012 Denver Broncos, Brooking would hang up the spikes for good.

Given that he was overshadowed by Lewis and Urlacher in his prime, Brooking may never achieve Canton enshrinement. However, he is a prime candidate to be inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor at some point. Brooking was an institution at middle linebacker for the Falcons for a decade, doing his very best to fill the giants shoes of the great Jessie Tuggle.