“I wouldn’t have been so open if I had written my book five years ago,” says Reggie Brooks, author of the just released If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (Triumph Books 2021, $17.95). “But Covid showed me how important it is to share. There were many people in my life who helped get me to where I am. I also learned that we’re here to serve others and not just ourselves.”
In many ways his book is a behind the scenes look at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish but for those who groan at the thought of another football book, Brooks wants you to know it’s more than that. He discusses both the highs and lows of his life and career, offering a human look at being a gridiron star as he takes us on his personal journey, often peppering his book with humorous anecdotes. That includes the time he scored a 20-yard touchdown against the University of Michigan in 1993 while unconscious.
“I didn’t even know I was knocked down,” says Brooks about the incident where, after catching a pass, he was able to break through six Wolverine tackles—the last knocking him out—and still managing to make it across the finish line before falling face first in the end zone.
“I didn’t really know about the play until I saw it on Sunday during our film session and team meeting,” he says.
Brooks, a Notre Dame tailback, ended his senior year with 1,372 rushing yards, averaging about 8 yards a carry and scoring 13 touchdowns. He was named an All-American, finished fifth in the voting that year for the Heisman Trophy and was selected in the second round of the 1993 NFL by the Washington Redskins. But after a stellar first year in the league, his career started stalling, in part, he believes by a disagreement he had with the management over the team’s use of his image.
Welcome to the NFL. For Brooks, it seemed that he had upset the wrong people and paid the price for doing so. But he’s self-aware of how he responded. Feeling as if he were drowning he retreated into himself and didn’t avail himself of the help he was offered. Brooks’ experiences in the NFL reinforced his realization of how important Notre Dame had been in his life.
“It allowed me to see more clearly how special my teammates at Notre Dame were and what it meant to be a college football player,” he writes. “It’s the maturity you have to develop and the care for the others—even if you do not consciously think about it.”
He also saw the power of the Notre Dame network and how it opened doors for him when he was struggling—how the kindness of those he knew there helped him find his way.
When I ask what impact he hopes his book will have on readers, Brooks responds that he wants to show how his life and Notre Dame intertwined.
“I also want to get people to realize the value of ‘you’ and what ‘you’ bring to the community,” he says.
His father was his first coach and taught him the importance of treating others well. The emphasis was not on football as a way make a lot of money (though no one is arguing that isn’t nice) but the impact you can have on others.
“I still struggle with fandom,” he says. And we laugh about the old saw about never believing in your own press clippings—in other words not letting the hype change who you are.
“Those who are just starting are as important as the most famous,” he says.
Married to his college sweetheart, Christina Brooks, the couple have five children. Until recently Reggie Brooks worked for Notre Dame as the university’s Director of Student-Athlete Alumni Relations/Engagement and participated in after game shows. Recently he accepted the position of executive director of Holtz’s Heroes Foundation which precipitated a move from South Bend, Indiana to Prairie View, Texas. But that move was in part participated with his wife getting a job in Fort Worth and it was time, he said, to support her as she had always supported his career and many moves.
Still there was a sense of loss about leaving. Brooks had followed his brother Tony, who also played football, to the university after high school, played there throughout college and then returned. He loves the school’s values. When I tell him my brother taught accountancy there for 30 years and never ever was pressured to give a break to an athlete, he laughs, saying “You go to class, you do the work, that’s what makes it Notre Dame.”
He makes sure to complement the university’s accounting program as if wanting to assure me that it’s just as glamorous and important as their fabled football program. It’s just what makes him Reggie Brooks.
What: Reggie Brooks book signing
When: Saturday, October 23 at 12:30pm CT
Where: Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, 1 Eck Center on the Notre Dame Campus in South Bend, Indiana