It's a feeling of both shock and awe.
If you told me it was going to happen, I would have said, “no possible way…it will take another year”.
If you told me a Free Agent acquisition in his 30’s could come in here, after a decade with another team, and inside of 10 games, become the heart and soul of the Dallas Cowboys’ defense, I’d have told you that you were crazier than a fish with titties.
But he did it. Keith Brooking freakin’ did it.
It’s easy to attribute Brooking’s rise to prominence within the Cowboys locker room to his years having worked in Wade’s schemes. It would be easy to explain it away as being a question of a premature (and erroneous) determination of how much, or little, gas he had left in his tank. You could even say it had more to do with the idea that Dallas lacked a true emotional leader on the defense and he was just the guy that happened to be in the right place at the right time to fill the gaping void.
I see it differently.
Brooking is one of those guys. He has a passion for the game. He loves it in a way that we haven’t seen since the Playmaker hung up his cleats. He’s not the fastest or most athletic of linebackers. In fact, he may be the least physically gifted of the bunch. But it’s his visceral competitive fire that has permeated the rest of the Dallas defense and, dare I say, the entire team. He plays the game with a level of intensity and reckless abandon coupled with a very cerebral approach that all of the defensive players have fed off of. He's a tough guy, a brawler, and now Dallas's defense is playing like a bunch of tough guys...like a bunch of brawlers.
While I know we’ve seen outstanding growth and development from Mike Jenkins and Anthony Spencer, I doubt that Dallas’ emergence as an upper echelon defense would have taken place if not for this 34-year old guy who was thought to be past his prime and falling apart physically. While Tony Romo has stepped up and become the leader on the offensive side of the ball after 3 seasons as the QB, Keith Brooking has done it as a veritable newbie. For that reason more than any other, I'm in awe of this guy. Truly, he is one of the key reasons for Dallas’ late season push.
So while we’re doling out the kudos to all of the (Ogle)Tree’s and Free’s who are showing promise, let’s not forget our stud inside linebacker who, admittedly, has more games behind him than he has in front of him.
Let this serve as one fan’s hope that he gets a shot at playing in several meaningful postseason contests before his epic run in Dallas is over.