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Barrett Brooks' preparation for life after football pays off in two new careers

Barrett Brooks never thought he would play in the NFL as long as he did. He was, however, always ready for life after football.

Originally a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1995, Brooks played 12 years as an offensive lineman in the league for the Eagles, Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers where he ended his career with a Super Bowl ring.

Eight years later, Brooks and his wife Sonji own and operate the Brooks Alternative (BA) School of Nursing and Allied Health Care in New Jersey.

“It all started when I was still playing,’’ Brooks said. “Once I had played six, seven years I knew I wasn’t going to play forever. I actually played longer than I thought I would.’’

Brooks was an immediate starter at left tackle for the Eagles as a rookie on the Ray Rhodes-coached team that made the playoffs as a wild-card team and scored 58 points in a wild-card win over Detroit.

He left Philadelphia, after Rhodes was fired, as a free agent before the 1999 season and signed with the Lions. He spent two years there, one with the Giants and his final four years in Pittsburgh.

In all of that time, did he think he was eventually going to get into owning a nursing school?

“No,’’ he said. “I never did.’’

But when his wife entered the field, it all got started. 

“I was in my eighth, or ninth, year when my wife went back to school to become a nurse,’’ Brooks said. “She wanted to do something in a field where she could help people, and decided on nursing.’’

After working her way up the nursing ranks, Sonji who has her master’s degree in nursing had the idea to open a school. She ran the idea by Barrett and the two decided to go for it.

“It’s a fully accredited school,’’ Brooks said. “I’ve really enjoyed working in the field. And, of course, my wife loves it.’’

The BA Technical School of Nursing and Allied Health Care has two separate classes and about 20-something students in each class. There are courses for LPN, EKG technicians, patient care technicians, and other nursing degrees.

Brooks doesn’t just lend his name to the school, he worked to learn the business and health-related sides of the school.

“My last year playing, in Pittsburgh, I was on injured reserve,’’ Brooks said. “Because of that I was able to go back to school and I got my MBA in health care management.’’

Barrett negotiates contracts for the school, is involved with the health care aspects, and recruits students to the school. Sonji runs the school as the owner and director.’’

“I’m still involved in the school in a lot of ways, but once it became self-sufficient it allowed me to pursue another career, one that I always wanted to do.’’

And that was to get back involved in the game he played at the highest level for 12 years.        

Brooks works at NFL Films as a producer and is also doing some local radio and television in football-crazy Philadelphia talking about the team that drafted him out of Kansas State back in 1995.

“I love the producing part of it,’’ Brooks said. “I really do. Most former players are on screen. But everyone can’t be in front of the camera. I like the behind the scenes stuff, the production, the editing. I think I found a niche for myself.’’

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