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Barrett Brooks Shares the Life Lessons of Youth Football With the Next Generation

Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.

Barrett Brooks didn't start playing football until he was 12 because he was too big.

​“I was bigger than most kids,’’ said Brooks, who would eventually reach a playing height and weight of 6'5" and 325 pounds. “When I was nine, I would have had to play with kids who were 14. I wasn’t ready for that.’’​

When the St. Louis native finally did start playing youth football, he learned a life lesson that he has never forgotten.

“Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability that was the biggest thing," Brooks said. "And it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing. It transferred to everything in life for me. At 12 years old, playing youth football, a light bulb went on in my head whatever I do, do it to the best of my ability.

"Be the best football player I could be, be the best student I could be, be the best son I could be, be the best brother I could be. If I’m in school, be the best student. If I’m out on this football field, be the best player."

Brooks took those life lessons with him throughout his football career. The offensive lineman earned All-State recognition at McCluer North High School and a scholarship to Kansas State University. He was a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles and ended his 12-year NFL career with a Super Bowl title as a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Now some 14 years after his playing career ended, Brooks uses that same lesson he learned as a message for young aspiring players in Southern New Jersey, where he resides with his wife Sonji and their five children.  

“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids,’’ Brooks said. “All the time when I played I would go to guys' camps, teammates' camps. But I like to do a lot for our local kids and high schools.’’

For Brooks, that’s Eastern High School in Voorhees, NJ, where his son and nephew both played.

“I like to go there and talk to the younger guys,’’ he said. “I’ve gotten to know the coaches and have a good relationship with them, so they let me talk to the team and work with them a little bit.’’

And what does he tell them? 

“Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability,’’ he said.

“I think they get it. I’ve had kids come back and they’re like, ‘I remember what you said and I applied it and I’m doing well.’ That makes you feel good. At least it’s not falling on deaf ears.’’

Photo Credit: AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance