Brandon Brooks is leaving the NFL for the next phase of his life, a chapter in which the three-time Pro Bowl selection plans to start business school at the University of Pennsylvania.
That got me thinking about higher learning in professional football and its curriculums.
If one wanted to teach a course on NFL free agency, Brooks, 32, might serve as the textbook on how to handle the league’s annual spending spree.
Brooks officially called it a career as one of the best right guards of his generation during a 40-plus minute virtual presser with reporters on Wednesday, a sped-up denouement after injuries robbed the Miami-Ohio product of much of the back-end of what was a decade-long NFL run.
Rehab became Brooks's job in recent years starting with an Achilles' tear he suffered in the playoffs after the 2018 season against New Orleans, arguably the difference in a close heartbreaking setback as the Eagles’ tried to run it back after a Super Bowl LII championship.
From there it was a dislocated shoulder, another Achilles', and a strained or slightly torn pec in Week 2 this past season as it was described to SI.com's Eagle Maven by an NFL source.
Over the past two seasons, Brooks was able to be out of the field with his offensive linemates for just two games.
Although the Milwaukee native developed into a gym rat as his career advanced the wear and tear on Brooks' 340-pound body was communicating with him.
“After all these injuries I just realized that at one point do you listen to your body," Brooks explained. "I think my body was just telling me, I had to make a decision."
With that decision made, the legacy can be evaluated.
Brooks will go down as one of the best free-agent signings in franchise history with the three consecutive Pro Bowl berths and the Super Bowl championship after he relocated from Houston to Philadelphia.
More so, Brooks was regarded as the best in the NFL at his position during the height of his career in the Doug Pederson era.
Despite the first Achilles' tear coming in January of 2019. Brooks was there for the start of the next campaign in September after a quick eight-month rehab and played the entire season as Pro Football Focus graded him as the best offensive lineman – not just offensive guard – in the entire NFL.
From 2016 when Brooks arrived from the Texans and was teamed with Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson, coupled with the coaching of Jeff Stoutland, Brooks allowed just four total quarterback sacks and a minuscule 12 QB hits.
With the new league year set to start on March 16, Brooks is the literal definition of what one wants in free agency, a solid player coming off his rookie deal who still has some upside.
As a third-round pick by the Texans in the 2012 NFL draft, Brooks was a good player in South Texas who turned into a great one in Philadelphia with Brooks and his good friend Johnson developing into the best ride side in football.
In this case, the upside was unlocked by Stoutland and his peers in the offensive line room.
"I got here, and whew!" Brooks smiled. "Jason Peters - especially among offensive linemen - is larger than life. ... when I came here just to soak up the knowledge and see how he played the game. ...Jason Kelce, nothing but great times with him. He's the engine that always made us go. ...Lane, we have been like brothers since Day 1."
The lynchpin to it all, though, was the Eagles' highly-regarded OL coach.
“When it comes to this game. When it comes to the offensive line, it's just like Stout says’ hungry dogs run faster,'” Brooks explained. “ Never get tired of doing the basics. Never get tired of doing the small things over and over because it allows the bigger things to become attainable. That's always something I tried to hang my hat on and just let it take me as far as it would take me."
That mentality took Brooks to heights the Eagles saw coming, according to owner Jeffrey Lurie.
"When we acquired Brandon as a free agent in 2016, we knew he would be the perfect cornerstone for a new coaching staff to build around," Lurie said in a statement. "Brandon immediately became a leader in our locker room and one of the league's most dominant offensive players during a six-year period."
And maybe that’s the parting gift Brooks leaves at the NovaCare Complex: the Eagles should never get tired of doing the small things that led them to Brooks over and over again.
If it were only that easy.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.