Brooks Comes Full Circle

Football Star, Sailor, Finance Whiz and Now Would-Be Priest

In 1968, the Dallas Cowboys ranked Robert T. Brooks '68 the 12th best graduating college football player in the nation.

But Brooks somewhat unwillingly gave up his chance to play professional football. Days after graduation, Brooks received his military draft notice and enlisted in the Navy's Officer Candidate School.

Nineteen years later, Brooks, by then a graduate of the Harvard Business School, gave up another lucrative position. But when Brooks decided to leave his job at a Philadelphia investment firm in order to become an Episcopal priest, it was entirely his own decision.

"Our culture teaches us to chase after the golden ring, and I was doing that," Brooks says. "But I felt needed to make a meaningful contribution to what I feel is important."

Brooks, who started thinking about becoming a priest in the early 1980s, finally made the switch this fall, enrolling at an Episcopal seminary in Cambridge.


But Brooks friends in college would never have predicted that the bulky leader of the football team's offensive line would eventually become a member of the clergy.

"In terms of him having a spiritual vocation after college, absolutely not," says Christopher J. Burns '68, Brooks roommate in Eliot House.

Despite coming from a fairly religious home, Brooks says he went to Memorial Church only twice in his four years at Harvard.

"I had a cynical attitude about institutional religion and the hypocrisy I thought existed," Brooks says.

Brooks, who went to church five times a week in high school, says he didn't consider becoming religious in college even after his friend left school to become a Jesuit priest.

"I was pretty headstrong," Brooks says. "I was doing my own thing."

As graduation neared, Brooks was choosing between going into the army ahead of the professional football draft, or taking a chance that the Cowboys would protect him.

Brooks had a pretty good chance of making the team, even though the Cowboys had found him by mistake. As they were watching a film of Carter U. Lord '68, a wide receiver, they caught sight of Brooks in the background. Cowboy officials made a separate tape of Brooks, and gave hime the national ranking.

"[Cowboy officials] said he had power, speed, quickness, and intelligence," says Lord, who was selected by the Cowboys that year. "They told me he was the best they had ever seen."

The Cowboys said they would protect Brooks from the military draft. But Brooks heard that players were actually being drafted into the armed services out of football mini-camp, so he declined the offer to sign as a free agent.

Still, Brooks was unsure of what to do after graduation. Brooks' father had fought in World War II, but the mood of antiwar protests forced Brooks to reexamine his feelings about joining the military.