ATLANTA - DECEMBER 14: Linebacker Keith Brooking #56 of the Atlanta Falcons watches play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Georgia Dome on December 14, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
With the waning seconds floating from the game clock Sunday afternoon, Cowboys' linebacker Keith Brooking ran from Dallas's sideline for the obligatory post-game niceties with an eagerness rarely seen in the NFL; this was a fitting end to a monumentally important game for both Brooking and the Cowboys.
Because Brooking, as his teammates in Dallas were quick to discover, is anything but ordinary.
After spending eleven seasons wit the Falcons in his hometown of Atlanta, Brooking came to the Cowboys this off-season in free agency. With a passion for the game that is rarely equaled, particularly among players of his age, the 33 year-old gained fans in Dallas--the locker room in particular--almost immediately.
"He came in with the attitude that he wanted to work and just be a great teammate," said nose tackle Jay Ratliff. "He plays with a lot of emotion and we just feed off of that. You can't help but follow a guy like that."
Such passion, such competitiveness, coupled with a long history with Atlanta, made Sunday's 37-21 win that much more sweet for Brooking, who remains friends with a great many of his former teammates. Friendship mattered little for Brooking on Sunday though, as he set out to prove that Atlanta's decision not to re-sign him was a mistake.
"This was a total team effort, just really a dominating performance, in all phases of our football team, and I know that Atlanta they really pride themselves on being physical and you know bringing that to the table and they didn't out-physical us today," Brooking said on Sunday.
"They got a couple of runs on us and the only runs they got on us was when they schemed us so, we took it to them, we bloodied their noses, and ah, them we stepped on them, and kicked them in the ground"