Former New Orleans Saints quarterback and Drew Brees’s predecessor Aaron Brooks left an indelible mark on franchise history.
Behind Brooks’s 266 passing yards and four touchdown passes, the Saints won their first-ever postseason game in franchise history in 2000.
Brooks’s heroics helped New Orleans beat the defending Super Bowl champions St. Louis Rams in the 2000 NFC Wild Card Game.
Brooks—who grew up in humble beginnings with his second cousin Michael Vick in Newport News, VA—became one of the few bright spots on a mediocre Saints team in the early-to-mid 2000s.
Although Brooks had almost 20,000 passing yards during his six-year tenure in the Big Easy, he never got the Pro Bowl selection he so richly deserved.
Nevertheless, Brooks became a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 2014. There’s no question he belongs in the same stratosphere as Archie Manning, Bobby Hebert, and Drew Brees as the best quarterbacks who ever wore Saints black and gold.
This is Aaron Brooks’s remarkable football story.
Aaron Lafette Brooks was born in Newport News, VA on March 24, 1976.
Brooks hails from the same area where Pro Bowl quarterbacks Michael Vick and Norm Snead spent their formative years.
Not only that, but Brooks is also the second cousin of Vick and his brother Marcus, a former Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Jay Busbee, Brooks played football, basketball, and baseball at Anderson Park with a good view of Chesapeake Bay from sunrise until sunset during his formative years in Virginia.
It was around this time when Aaron taught his younger cousin Michael, a future Pro Bowl quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, the finer points of the gridiron.
Brooks cherished those moments. He told Busbee he and his friends were a tight-knit and family-oriented group who lived in public housing in the Hampton Roads area.
Although Brooks and his family were not well-off, he felt satisfied with the prevailing circumstances of his youth. It was a memorable time for him.
There were hardly any gangs in Hampton Roads, but narcotics were a widespread problem in the community. Before long, Aaron’s brother got involved with drugs, which resulted in the family’s eviction from public housing.
Met former Saints QB/Newport News native Aaron Brooks. He said he misses NO and asked if I had any gumbo w/ me lol! pic.twitter.com/SBghYV9ay3
— Jessica Larché (@JessicaNLarche) September 8, 2013
Fortunately, football gave Aaron Brooks and his family the escape they desperately needed.
Aaron Brooks attended Ferguson High School in his hometown of Newport News, VA. He played quarterback for Ferguson Mariners head football coach Tommy Reamon.
Brooks’s quarterbacking prowess impressed Reamon to no end. The latter considered him one of the best signal callers Newport News, VA has ever produced.
“Aaron Brooks is the most fundamentally sound, intellectually sound quarterback from this area other than Norm Snead,” Reamon told the Daily Press‘s Dave Johnson in the summer of 2014. “You’ve got to put Aaron Brooks right there.”
Brooks eventually remained in-state and committed to George Welsh’s Virginia Cavaliers during his senior year.
After a slow start to Aaron Brooks’s college football career, he showed coaches and scouts alike he was a legitimate NFL quarterback prospect in the late 1990s.
College Days with the Virginia Cavaliers
Aaron Brooks attended the University of Virginia from 1994 to 1998. Brooks, an anthropology major, suited up for legendary Virginia Cavaliers head football coach George Welsh.
Two of Brooks’s college teammates were twins Tiki and Ronde Barber. The former eventually became a Pro Bowl running back for the New York Giants while his brother became a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brooks redshirted his true freshman season in 1994. When he took the field for the first time as a redshirt freshman in 1995, he played behind starter Mike Groh.
The Cavaliers had a 9-4 win-loss record that year. They beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the 1995 Peach Bowl, 34-27.
Brooks split quarterbacking duties with fifth-year senior Tim Sherman the following season. Aaron hardly made a splash with 517 passing yards, one touchdown pass, and seven picks as a redshirt sophomore in 1996.
Virginia had a 7-5 win-loss record in Brooks’s second year with the varsity squad. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers lost to the Miami Hurricanes in the 1996 Carquest Bowl, 31-21.
Finally a Starter
After Sherman graduated following the 1996 NCAA season, Welsh made Aaron Brooks his starting quarterback in 1997.
When Brooks took over the reins from Sherman, his college football career reached unprecedented heights.
Brooks had 2,282 passing yards as a redshirt junior in 1997. He also showed uncanny accuracy. He had 20 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions that year.
With Brooks leading the charge, Virginia had a respectable 7-4 win-loss record in the 1997 NCAA campaign. Regrettably, it wasn’t enough to earn a bowl invite.
Brooks and the Cavaliers regrouped accordingly in the 1998 NCAA season. He picked up where he left off and had 2,545 passing yards, 15 touchdown passes, and 10 interceptions in his final season in Charlottesville, VA.
One of Brooks’s most memorable games was the one against the Cavaliers’ in-state rivals, the Virginia Tech Hokies, on November 28, 1998.
The Hokies got off to a fast start and led the Cavaliers 29-7 at halftime. Undaunted, Brooks completed 19 of 32 passes for 345 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions as he led Virginia to a 36-32 comeback victory.
11-28-1998, @VirginiaFootbal outscored Virginia Tech 29-3 in the 2nd half to comeback & win 36-32. Aaron Brooks threw for 345 yards, 3 TD & 1 INT. Terrence Wilkins led the Cavaliers with 141 yards on 7 catches. Kevin Coffey caught 5 for 111 & a TD. @thomasqjones ran & caught TD. pic.twitter.com/NHAXXsTcBO
— Scott F (@TheFrizz87) November 28, 2021
Brooks approached his younger second cousin, redshirt freshman Hokies quarterback Michael Vick, near Virginia Tech’s bench and exchanged high-fives with him shortly after the Cavaliers’ game-winning drive.
Vick’s Hokies teammates were incredulous at the sight of their redshirt freshman quarterback exchanging pleasantries with the enemy. They asked him point blank why he did that.
“Back off,” Vick hollered at his teammates (via ESPN The Magazine). “This ain’t football. This is family.”
Virginia won nine of twelve games in Brooks’s redshirt senior season. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers lost to the Georgia Bulldogs in the 1998 Peach Bowl, 35-33.
Impressing All with His Arm
As Aaron Brooks’s college football career progressed, he impressed coaches, teammates, and fans with his rifle of a throwing arm.
One of his Cavaliers teammates, wideout Ahmad Hawkins, thought Brooks’s passing abilities were similar to a Philadelphia Eagles legend.
“He was special,” Hawkins told the Daily Press in June 2014. “He had such a strong arm. When he threw a pass, it was like Aaron was throwing a 95-miles-per-hour fastball. He had such a powerful arm. He reminded me of Randall Cunningham.”
Brooks spent his offseasons in his hometown of Newport News, VA. His desire to give back to his community intensified with each passing year during his college days with the Cavaliers.
That desire would eventually pave the way for Aaron Brooks’s blossoming property development career after he retired from the National Football League in 2007.
Brooks finished his college football career with 5,344 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and 25 interceptions.
Aaron Brooks went through a similar career progression in the National Football League ranks. After an uneventful rookie season with the Green Bay Packers, Brooks became one of the best quarterbacks in recent New Orleans Saints franchise history.
Pro Football Career
The Green Bay Packers made Aaron Brooks the 131st overall selection of the 1999 NFL Draft.
The Packers took Brooks off the draft board at the urging of quarterbacks coach Mike McCarthy. He convinced Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf he was their quarterback of the future, per ESPN’s Greg Garber.
To McCarthy’s dismay, Aaron Brooks never got the chance to shine in the Packers’ green and gold.
Brooks was third on the Packers’ quarterback depth chart behind Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck that year. He languished on head coach Ray Rhodes’s bench and never played a single down in a Packers uniform.
Green Bay’s post-Mike Holmgren era got off to a rough start. The Packers went 8-8 and missed the postseason for the first time since the 1992 NFL campaign.
Aaron Brooks’s NFL career took on a fortuitous turn of events at the turn of the new century.
Donning Black and Gold
Shortly after the New Orleans Saints hired McCarthy to become their offensive coordinator prior to the 2000 NFL season, he convinced Saints general manager Randy Mueller to orchestrate a trade that would send Brooks to New Orleans.
Brooks’s tenure in frigid Green Bay, WI was a short-lived one. The Packers traded him and tight end Lamont Hall to the Saints for pass rusher K.D. Williams and a 2001 draft choice on July 31, 2000.
Little did Aaron Brooks know at the time that getting traded to the Saints would be the best thing that happened in his eight-year pro football career.
For his part, McCarthy knew all along Brooks had star written all over him.
“Aaron Brooks,” McCarthy said at the time (via ESPN). “Is going to be a star in this league.”
McCarthy’s hunch was spot on. Aaron Brooks became one of the best signal callers in Saints franchise history.
The Saints were a team in disarray prior to Brooks’s arrival in the Big Easy in the summer of 2000.
Since making four postseason appearances under the leadership of local hero Bobby “The Cajun Cannon” Hebert from 1987 to 1992, New Orleans averaged barely six wins per year from 1993 to 1999.
The Saints enjoyed a major resurgence under first-year head coach Jim Haslett in 2000. Aaron Brooks was a big part of that turnaround.
It seemed New Orleans’s postseason hopes were seriously jeopardized after second-year running back Ricky Williams and quarterback Jeff Blake sustained injuries within a week of each other in November 2000.
A Starter Again
Haslett tapped Brooks to take over quarterbacking duties in Blake’s absence. Despite throwing an interception in his first pass attempt to Charles Woodson, Brooks went on to pass for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints’ 31-22 loss to the visiting Oakland Raiders on November 19, 2000.
Brooks’s first NFL start was a road game against the defending Super Bowl champions St. Louis Rams on November 26, 2000.
Brooks, a no-name quarterback who had languished on the Packers’ bench in 1999, remained undaunted. He completed 19 of his 27 pass attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ 31-24 victory over the Rams.
It was Brooks’s one-yard plunge into the end zone with 3:50 remaining that carried New Orleans to victory that afternoon.
Brooks’s quiet confidence made a profound impression on Haslett.
“This guy is calm and cool,” Haslett told Garber in the fall of 2000. “Nothing really rattles him.”
Aaron Brooks made New Orleans Saints franchise history just one month after securing his first win as a starting NFL quarterback.
Brooks made his postseason debut in the 2000 NFC Wild Card Game against the team he tormented just four weeks earlier: the St. Louis Rams.
Brooks converted 16 of 29 pass attempts for 266 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception in New Orleans’s 31-28 win—the Saints’ first-ever playoff victory.
In addition, Brooks and Co. also dethroned the defending Super Bowl champions.
Although the Saints’ season ended with a 34-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2000 NFC Divisional Round, Brooks became their franchise quarterback over the next five seasons.
A Family Affair
By the time the 2002 NFL season kicked off, Brooks entered his fourth pro football season. On the other hand, his younger cousin, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, was just entering his second NFL campaign.
The two NFL quarterbacks from Newport News, VA spoke with each other by phone twice weekly. They typically talked about family matters and quarterback play, per ESPN The Magazine‘s David Fleming.
Although Brooks and Vick had similar Virginia roots, their differences became more profound during their respective pro football careers.
A lot of credit goes to Michael Vick’s 2nd cousin Aaron Brooks for teaching Michael Vick and spending time with him. pic.twitter.com/Trl4Bbs0Fc
— Ledbetter (@ledbetter2323) December 25, 2022
For instance, Vick admitted to Fleming that he was more of a soft-spoken individual. By contrast, Brooks was more loquacious by nature.
In terms of vehicle preferences, Aaron readily settled for used cars. In stark contrast, Michael preferred brand-new ones.
A Rough Time for New Orleans
With Brooks firmly entrenched as Haslett’s starter, he had an incredible 17,642 passing yards and 111 touchdowns from 2001 to 2005.
Despite Aaron Brooks’s best efforts, he never earned a Pro Bowl nod in his eight-year pro football career.
Although the Saints had Brooks and Pro Bowlers Joe Horn and Deuce McAllister, they were a mediocre team that averaged just seven wins per season during that five-year time frame. New Orleans never made the postseason in that period.
Brooks’s six-year tenure in the Big Easy came to a tumultuous end in 2005. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and their stadium in late August, circumstances forced the nomadic Saints to play their home games in San Antonio, TX, Baton Rouge, LA, and New York City, NY that year.
To compound the Saints’ woes, they went 3-13 during their forgettable 2005 NFL season. It was the team’s worst showing since Jim Mora’s last year as head coach in 1996.
Saints management fired head coach Jim Haslett and released Brooks following the 2005 NFL campaign.
“It was horrible,” Brooks told Johnson nine years later. “It was my roughest year as a professional by far.”
Switching to the Silver and Black
Fortunately, Brooks did not have to wait long. Al Davis’s Oakland Raiders signed him in the spring of 2006.
Although future Hall of Fame wideout Randy Moss was one of Brooks’s weapons, a leaky offensive line compromised his play at quarterback.
Alas, Brooks injured his pectoral muscle in a Week 2 game against the Baltimore Ravens and sat out the Raiders’ next seven games.
Brooks had his worst showing as an NFL quarterback in Raiders silver and black. He had 1,105 passing yards, three touchdown passes, and eight interceptions for Oakland in 2006.
The Raiders were an abysmal 2-14 in Art Shell’s second and final tour of duty as their head coach. They missed the postseason for the tenth time in the past fourteen years.
Oakland did not pick up Aaron Brooks’ option at the season’s end and released him shortly afterward. After Brooks did not get feelers from other NFL teams, he hung up his cleats in 2007.
Time to Retire
Aaron Brooks finished his eight-year pro football career with 20,261 passing yards, 123 touchdowns, and 92 interceptions.
Brooks, who collects signed jerseys of African-American quarterbacks such as Warren Moon, Daunte Culpepper, Marlin Briscoe, and Steve McNair, wanted to represent that proud group when he entered the pro football ranks in 1999.
“I took pride in being one of the star black quarterbacks in the NFL,” Brooks told ANDSCAPE’s Martenzie Johnson in December 2017. “One of the reasons is because I wanted to be the next black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. I wanted all those accolades. I wanted to represent not only myself, my family, but that fraternity of black quarterbacks.”
During Aaron’s playing days in the NFL, he used his road trips as valuable learning experiences in building on his future real estate development career.
According to Busbee, witnessing the urban growth of various cities such as Houston, TX; San Diego, CA; and Atlanta, GA resonated deeply with Brooks. He took mental notes of what he saw and applied them to his post-football endeavors in various communities in his home state of Virginia.
Aaron Brooks, his wife Tisa, and their three children currently reside in the Richmond, VA area.
Unlike many of Brooks’s NFL contemporaries who spent their money recklessly, he managed his finances wisely during his eight-year career on the pro gridiron.
In 2014, Brooks told the Daily Press that his certified financial planner, Michael Smith, helps keep his financial life in order.
Aaron Brooks launched his burgeoning real estate development career shortly after he retired from pro football. His first major project was creating a high-end subdivision in Williamsburg, VA, per Busbee.
Brooks and his hometown of Newport News, VA collaborated on a new project focusing on the Jefferson Avenue area in 2008.
Town officials downplayed Aaron’s inexperience. They thought his relentless dedication to his local community mattered more.
Plus, the former Saints quarterback’s name rang a bell among many Virginia residents. For town officials, Brooks’s name would boost their marketing projects significantly.
Before long, they decided to name their new development project “Brooks Crossing.” Aaron teamed up with Armada Hoffler, an experienced developer, so he could bring the project to fruition.
Today’s Rooted in Newport News highlight is Brooks Crossing. Developed by Aaron Brooks, the 29+ acre mixed-use development has something for everyone – community amenities, retail, and business. Visit at Jefferson & 31st. #RootedinNewportNews #NNProud #BlackHistory #BrksCrossing pic.twitter.com/z1JspPB8gb
— T. Faulk, Ed.D. (@TonyaTheDiva) February 22, 2020
Brooks refuted the notion that urban development merely involved funding projects and letting the chips fall where they may.
“Some people thought I’d just come in here, dump a bunch of millions of dollars, and voila, development appears,” Brooks told Busbee in the fall of 2016. “That’s not how it works. I was smart enough to understand that, and so I brought in a partner to help subsidize the costs.”
Brooks’s efforts have paid huge dividends. Brooks Crossing’s police precinct, a grocery store, a daycare center, a beauty supply store, and a Family Dollar location opened within ten months in 2016.
Not Just About the Money
Making boatloads of money from his various development projects is only secondary for Aaron Brooks. His long-term goal is a simple one.
“My aim is to put smiles on people’s faces when they’re enjoying life and what the world has to offer,” Brooks told Yahoo! Sports in 2016.
Aaron Brooks became a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in the summer of 2014.
Brooks was taking a nap in his Richmond, VA residence when New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame chairman Ken Trahan called and informed him of his induction.
A perplexed Brooks told Trahan he had to sit up so he was sure he’d heard him correctly. Trahan confirmed to him he was one of the greatest players in New Orleans Saints history.
“It’s a wonderful honor,” Brooks told Johnson.” At first, I tried to downplay it, but now I’m excited about being a part of the Hall of Fame.”
At the time of Brooks’s induction into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame, his 120 touchdown passes and ten 300-yard passing games were the second-most in team history. Brooks’s 19,156 passing yards were also third among retired New Orleans quarterbacks, per the team’s official website.
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