From Super Bowl champion to championing mental health

Brandon Brooks retired from the NFL in January 2022. He is now at Wharton, pursuing a ‘major passion for increasing financial literacy in my community.’

Brandon Brooks retired from the NFL in January 2022 before committing to the pursuit of his full-time MBA at the Wharton School. He joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016, and went on to become a Super Bowl champion when the Eagles defeated the Patriots in 2018.

In addition to his celebrity status, Brandon is a mental health advocate, vocal about his personal struggles with stress-related anxiety.

Left, Brandon Brooks kisses a Super Bowl trophy in his Eagles uniform, at right, Brooks in a suit.
Brandon Brooks, an MBA student at Wharton, played for the Philadelphia Eagles, who defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2018.

“As a football player, you’re looked at as a modern day gladiator; which is rewarding, but also brutal,” he says. “I don’t have a problem with masculinity, but I have a problem with toxic masculinity, hyper masculinity. In that framework, men are told to be tough, to never show emotion, to never get too high or too low. But that’s not real life. We all have emotions: agony, joy, defeat, sadness. Too many young men are told to suppress their emotions; they’re told to ‘never feel depressed, never feel anxious.’ But there are many ways that your emotions will come out, whether you like it or not, and understanding our emotions is natural—that’s a part of life.”

Brooks is candid in discussing his anxiety on the field, and how perfectionism makes for an unrealistic expectation. “There’s a lot of negative associations with mental health, coping with it, dealing with it, and my anxiety gets out of control sometimes. It makes me double-check, triple-check everything that I do. But instead of perceiving my own mind as a weakness, I reframe my perception of myself into strength—if I weren’t this way, then maybe I wouldn’t have the level of success that I’ve achieved.”

Brooks interned in other fields before landing on business. “Wharton is the best business school in the world, and I realized I have a major passion for increasing financial literacy in my community. I would love to implement programs at the middle and high school levels that teach kids how to do taxes, how to manage money, and how these skills will set them up for success.”

This story is by Grace Meredith and Devon Chodzin. Read more at Wharton Stories.