Top 50 Falcons: No. 17, Keith Brooking

Keith Brooking, Atlanta Falcons
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Top 50 Falcons: No. 17, Keith Brooking
Keith Brooking, Atlanta Falcons

Linebacker Keith Brooking was the Falcons’ first pick (12th overall) in the 1998 NFL Draft. (AJC)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 17 linebacker is Keith Brooking.

Years played for Falcons: A Georgia boy since berth, Keith Brooking was a star athlete at East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg. He attended Georgia Tech and became the school’s all-time leader in tackles with 467. In 1998, the Falcons selected him 12th overall. After getting his feet wet his first three seasons, Brooking took off and was named to the Pro Bowl five consecutive seasons spanning from 2001 to 2005. He played 11 seasons in Atlanta before three years in Dallas and one final season in 2012 with the Denver Broncos. Brooking amassed 882 tackles and 17 sacks while in the Black and Red and finished with 1,097 career tackles, 22 sacks and 13 interceptions – 12 of which came with Atlanta.

Keith Brooking, Atlanta Falcons

“Obviously, I get very emotional,” Keith Brooking acknowledges about his exhuberant celebrations following a play . (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Jersey No.: 56

His impact on the team: Georgia’s native son quickly became a fan favorite and a stalwart for many tough nosed Atlanta defenses. He ranks third all-time in tackles behind only Jessie Tuggle and Scott Case, since tackles were officially kept track of. Brooking was as sure handed as linebackers could come, rarely missing tackles. His career-high 22 tackles against the Green Bay Packers was the most since Tuggle recorded 22 in 1991. He was not only a standout on the field but off it as well. In 2003, Brooking founded The Keith Brooking Children’s Foundation. The organization’s goal is to serve the needs of foster children in metro Atlanta. After the 2008 season he signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys for $6 million over three years.

On what he was told why he wasn’t re-signed: “The last thing I was told by one of the Atlanta coaches was, ‘It’s a young man’s game.’ ” (AJC)

On the emotions of playing Atlanta: “Obviously, I get very emotional and I didn’t want to spend too much energy too soon on that … was trying my best to stay in control, because I have been in situations where I did get a little bit out of control and it really spends you for the rest of the game. So I was conscious of that.”

On celebrating his first win against the Falcons: “There are a lot of people in that organization that mean a lot to me and I will always keep in touch with. Some very good friends. I was talking a little bit of trash to them, so I had to go and apologize for it. Sometimes I do get a little bit out of control.”

Where he is now: Brooking, 40, lives with his wife, Holly, in Atlanta with sons, Logan and Jonah, and daughter, Ella.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
48: Jonathan Babineaux
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler
42: Tim Mazzetti
41: Buddy Curry
40: Scott Case
39: Jeff Merrow
38: Elbert Shelley
37: Matt Bryant
36: Alge Crumpler
35: Michael Turner
34: Ray Buchanan
33: Chris Hinton
32: Terance Mathis
31: Devin Hester
30: Don Smith
29: Greg Brezina
28: Chris Miller
27: John James
26: Bob Whitfield
25: Rolland Lawrence
24: Alfred Jenkins
23: Billy Johnson
22: Chris Chandler
21: Morten Andersen
20: John Abraham
19: George Kunz
18: Jamal Anderson
17: Keith Brooking

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