It Didn't Take Brooks Long To Embrace Life As A Packer


*As part of the Green Bay Packers' celebration of the 10th anniversary season of the Super Bowl XXXI Championship, is running a series of stories about the people responsible for bringing the Vince Lombardi trophy back home to Titletown.

Robert Brooks has no problem admitting that he initially wanted nothing to do with the Green Bay Packers.

In fact, Brooks wasn't shy about telling anyone that before the 1992 NFL Draft, either. The 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver wasn't accustomed to the cold weather or the Midwest, and if he would have had his way at the time, Brooks never would have landed in Green Bay, Wis.

"When people asked me where I would like to get drafted, I said anywhere but Green Bay," Brooks recalled. "And I think I named another team that was a cold-weather team. I mean, I'm a South Carolina guy, but I was living in Arizona, so I'm looking for a hot-weather team to draft me. And on top of the cold weather, Sterling Sharpe was there, who I just had replaced at South Carolina. I just didn't want to go to Green Bay."

It wasn't long before Brooks had a complete change of heart, however.

"When I went there, I started to get to know the people," Brooks explained. "I got a sense of the history and the pride in just being a Packer. When you get a sense of that, it totally changes your mindset of Green Bay. Because there's no place, no professional franchise that can compare to playing in Green Bay. It's just not the same.

"I think Green Bay is the best professional franchise that you can play for as an athlete. Especially if you go to Green Bay and win a Super Bowl. There's no place like it."

Win a Super Bowl is exactly what the Packers did in 1996, although Brooks spent the last two months of the regular season on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and patellar tendon in his right knee.

Despite not being on the field during the remarkable run, Brooks still enjoyed being a part of the bigger picture, which was getting the Packers back to elite status.

"Oh, it was the ultimate," Brooks, 35, said. "I remember when Mike Holmgren first came there and he said, 'You guys may have not been in the playoffs for a lot of years, but make no mistake about it, our goal is the Super Bowl. We won't mention it out in public because most people won't understand where we're coming from, not having made the playoffs, but our goal is the Super Bowl.'

"And that was his mindset from Day 1. And I think after the first year, we went to the playoffs and we were believers from there on. So, that team was destined to win the Super Bowl at some point."

The Packers eventually got over the hump, but it wasn't easy. They had lost to Dallas in the postseason three consecutive years and falling short that many times can often be disheartening. But for one reason or another, Green Bay kept coming back strong the following season.

According to Brooks, those three losses against Dallas gave the Packers an attitude of "Super Bowl or bust."

"We thought we were good enough to go to the Super Bowl in '95, but we fell short there at the very end," Brooks explained. "And Reggie (White), myself, Brett (Favre), some of the leaders on the team, we had made our mind up in the locker room in Dallas that we were going to the Super Bowl the next year. In our mind, that team was destined to go.

"And whether I played, or whether someone else played, or if Brett had got hurt, or Reggie would have not been there, that team was destined to go to the Super Bowl. That was just our mindset from the time we lost the NFC Championship game in '95. I'm pretty sure most of the guys on that team remember that scene of how hard we had played and how exhausted we were.

"I mean, there were guys crying in the locker room when we lost to Dallas because we knew that we were better than that team. We should have won that game, and we let it slip away."

Attitude Propels Wide Receiver, Packers to Ultimate Prize

Brooks was instrumental in the Packers' success for seven seasons. He finished his career with 309 receptions and a 13.8 yards-per-catch average. Not bad numbers for a guy who was only 190 pounds and considered too small by some to endure the pounding of the NFL game.

But the critics who want to talk about size should start with the size of Brooks' heart, because they'd be hard pressed to find someone with a bigger one. As far as his stature goes, well, Brooks never worried about that, either.

"I tell my kids every day that attitude is the little thing that counts the most," Brooks said. "How you approach things is all an attitude thing. Nothing is as big as it seems. No game is as big as it seems. No situation is as big as it seems. It's just your attitude and how you approach it."

It's that mindset that allowed Brooks to experience a great deal of success as a Packer. The leaders of the team -- and there certainly were several, including Brooks, White, Favre, LeRoy Butler and Sean Jones -- created more than just a winning attitude with the Packers. They re-established a dominance, particularly at Lambeau Field, which hadn't been felt for the most part since the glory days of Vince Lombardi.

"You understood the magnitude and the mystique that was there," Brooks explained. "We created an atmosphere, just like Fuzzy Thurston, Willie Wood, Bart Starr, and all these guys. They created an atmosphere up there that there was a mystique at Lambeau Field, that when you played there in the playoffs (as Green Bay's opponent), you did not win, and you knew you were not going to win. When you played there in December and January, you knew there was not a chance that you were going to win a game there. We tried to carry that on. When those old guys came into the locker room, we took pride in that."

Camaraderie was the critical factor in making success a reality, according to Brooks.

Not that he can explain it.

"It was supernatural, man," Brooks marveled. "It wasn't something you can find just anywhere. You can't doctor it up. And if one man's down, the next man picks up where he left off. And it was such a team effort. Everything we did was just team.

"There wasn't a time where guys weren't at each other's houses. We knew one another on and off the field. There were genuine friendships off the field. Sometimes you're just friends and acquaintances because you're on the same team and you see each other all the time. But that wasn't the case there, it was genuine. It was very genuine."

If anybody can speak about the meaning of genuine, it's Brooks. After all, he created an up close and personal relationship with fans when he took jumping into the stands to a whole new level. LeRoy Butler may have been the first member of that particular team to jump in the stands, but make no mistake about it, Brooks made the Lambeau Leap a tradition that is still going strong today.

He said he didn't have a dance so jumping in the stands was the only thing he could think of to celebrate touchdowns. Little did he know at the time, but his trademark jump would make him "feel like a rock star," he said with a laugh.

Clearly, Brooks enjoyed the atmosphere of Green Bay, but in his post-football career he now competes in the warmer climate that he preferred all along.

Brooks, who is married to Diana and has three children -- Austin, 14, Robert, 7, and Elisha, 6 -- lives in Phoenix. He keeps busy with his business ventures such as Brooks International, a company that he owns, as well as Samurai Sam's Teriyaki Chicken Grille franchises.

The former wide receiver also owns Brooks International Commercial, a real estate company. In addition to that, Brooks, along with Steve Rose, authored two books called Leap of Faith and Leap of Faith, 2.

Brooks Fulfilling Higher Calling

While Brooks has maintained a high level of success away from the field, it's not his business interests that he takes the most pride in. He views those as part-time jobs, but his work as a minister for a nondenominational Christian church in Arizona is something that requires full-time attention.

Brooks, who started his ministry in 1999, believes that is what God has called him to do. He now preaches at Trendsetter's Church, a 40,000-square-foot facility with about 2,500 seats that he said "was given to him as a gift from a well-known prophet."

According to Brooks, his faith has been the most significant change in his life in the last 10 years.

The irony is that Brooks said this journey started to take shape in the 1996 season.

"My faith in Christ has really, really taken off and become the focal point of everything I do," Brooks explained. "I feel like I was radically changed. God has been faithful to everything I've read in scripture. God has been faithful above and beyond that.

"There was a time when I was lost and very selfish and very unconnected with God. Part of my testimony was that I had a dream that I was going to have a career-ending injury and I was going to be supernaturally healed. And all those things came to pass."

The injury Brooks is referring to is the torn ACL that caused him to miss the latter part of the '96 season. But, like his dream stated, he recovered much quicker than expected. His work ethic and determination certainly played a role in his recovery, but he contends that his faith was the catalyst in helping him return to the field. Whatever the reason, it was nothing short of miraculous. Trainer Pepper Burruss, who is still with the team, said at the time that Brooks' recovery was the fastest he had seen in 20 years as a trainer.

"That was part of the dream that I was talking about and I wrote in the Leap of Faith book. My testimony has been totally supernatural and my change was very radical," Brooks said. "If it wasn't for God speaking to me in a dream and showing me those things and then those things beginning to come to pass, I probably wouldn't have made such a radical change."

According to Brooks, the faith he and many of his teammates shared may not have gotten much attention, but perhaps it should have.

"Most people write it off," Brooks said. "And Reggie would always say Green Bay was God's country and little things like that, but you know what, God had his hand on that team and a hand on a lot of fellows that played on those teams. I'm pretty sure now looking back, most people realize that those teams were special.

"And if you ask anybody with the Packers, they know that the people were different, the kids that played on those teams were different, the families, there was something special about that four- or five-year run."

It may not have been South Carolina, Arizona or some other warm-weather climate that Brooks initially preferred, but it sounds like Green Bay didn't turn out so bad after all.

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