Tommy Brooker (1939-2019)

The writeup on Tommy Brooker in the 1961 Alabama media guideImage courtesy of Jimmy Bank
Christopher Walsh

When it came time to piece together his display case as part of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2009, Tommy Brooker didn’t have much he could contribute. There was no old jersey in a frame or a helmet in storage, so he wrote “Bama, No. 1 team in the nation” on the one item he could donate, a cheek cushion from his Riddell helmet.

Still, it was the most personable item in his display case, placed next to a photo of him shaking hands with Joe Namath after playing the New York Jets; a pictorial collage of the 1960 game against Auburn when he scored the only points in the 3-0 victory; a letterman’s jacket; and “Coach Bryant’s Football Family;” a team photo of the 1961 national champions.

“This is probably the ultimate,” he said at the time. “It’s a dream come true.”

The Demopolis, Alabama, native was an honorable mention All-American, but an Academic All-American, and always thought himself as more than a kicker. For example, during his AFL rookie season he caught four passes for the Dallas Texas (before the franchise became the Kansas City Chiefs), three for touchdowns including a 92-yard hookup with quarterback Len Dawson at Denver.

Brooker, who founded the Alabama A Club Educational & Charitable Foundation in 1968, also broke George Blanda’s record for consecutive extra points, and never missed one during his five years as a pro, making all 149. 

His most famous kick came in the famous 1962 AFL championship when he made a 24-yard field goal in double overtime, then the longest game in pro football history at 77 minutes and 54 seconds, to beat the Houston Oilers 20-17.

Tommy  Brooker celebration
Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

“The conditions were awful and nobody in the huddle was saying a word,” he said. “They were just looking at me and standing there, and I looked up to them and said, ‘Don’t worry baby, it’s all over.’ I was a brash young rookie. I looked at it this way, kicking was just another play for me.”

Brooker, who became a Tuscaloosa-area businessman and remained a staunch supporter of Crimson Tide athletics (not just football), passed away over the weekend following a long illness. He was 79.