Former GF Central, NFL QB Bollinger set to hang 'em up
Midway through this UFL season, Florida Tuskers quarterback and Grand Forks native Brooks Bollinger hurt his neck and sternum on a hit. He played through the injuries, but later in the same game Bollinger smacked his hand on a helmet while throwing a pass.
"I'm getting too old to get hit that much," said the 31-year-old Bollinger, who never fully recovered from the hand injury.
So after six NFL seasons and two in the UFL, the former Grand Forks Central star has decided to enter the next stage of his football career.
"Unless something crazy happens, I'm done," Bollinger said. "I think this year was the year that told me that it's time to hang it up. This is a young man's game. It's all taken its toll on my body.
"Plus, my kids are getting older. At least at this point, I'm very comfortable and excited to start something new."
Bollinger resides in the Twin Cities, where his wife Natalie is pregnant and expecting their third child in February.
"I'm taking some time and enjoying the two boys and my wife," Bollinger said. "I'm talking to people and trying to figure out what I'm going to do next. Honestly, it's exciting to take a deep breath and evaluate what's best for my family.
"This might be funny to some people, but for the first time in a long time I feel like my life could go in any direction. I have the power to choose. You know, you sign a letter of intent to go to college, you get drafted, you get traded, you get cut, you get signed ... don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I'm excited to sit back and see what's out there."
A logical transition
As a quarterback and the son of former UND offensive coordinator Rob Bollinger, coaching would seem to be a natural fit for Brooks.
Where, though? Brooks says it depends on the opportunity and the potential strain it would put on his family.
"With that profession, it's about making sure it works for my family," Bollinger said. "I was fortunate enough to develop relationships with NFL coaches, college coaches, all the way down to high school. Those are all good levels for different reasons. They're all bad levels for different reasons.
"But in some capacity, I will coach at some point. Maybe it's high school. Maybe it's the NFL. Football will always be a part of my life."
How about at the University of Wisconsin, where Bollinger was 30-12 in his four seasons as starter and rushed for more yards than any quarterback in school history? As a redshirt freshman, Bollinger led the Badgers to a Rose Bowl victory.
"I love Madison as a town," Bollinger said. "I know a ton of people in the athletic department. Would I want to coach there? The short answer is yes ... depending on X, Y and Z. If I decide to coach at that level, (Wisconsin) would be on the top of my list."
Bollinger said he and his dad attended the Rose Bowl in Pasadena earlier this month, where TCU beat Wisconsin. It was the first time the Badgers had been back to the Rose Bowl since Bollinger's 2000 team.
His pro tour
Bollinger was a sixth-round NFL draft choice by the New York Jets in 2003. He started nine games for the Jets in 2005, completing 150 of 266 passes for 1,558 yards and seven touchdowns. A banged-up Jets offensive line, however, also allowed Bollinger to be sacked 32 times that season.
Bollinger would play two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, starting one game in 2007. In 2008, Bollinger was a backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. He played in two games and threw one touchdown pass, to Terrell Owens.
He was signed by the Detroit Lions in 2009, but released after five days.
His pro football career then turned to the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League, where he has played for the past two seasons, including a league MVP campaign in 2009.
Bollinger's last shot at the NFL might have came this season with the Minnesota Vikings when Brett Favre ended his record consecutive-games played streak and Tarvaris Jackson went down with a leg injury.
"I texted (Vikings offensive coordinator and former Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Darrell) Bevell that I was 15 minutes down the road and ready any time," Bollinger laughed. "Obviously, a lot of different variables go into those decisions. I have a lot of good friends there and would have loved that opportunity. It didn't work out."
Instead, the Vikings signed Patrick Ramsey, a former teammate of Bollinger's in New York.
"I was happy for Patrick," Bollinger said. "He's a good guy and a good player. That's the way the business goes. I gave those guys a hard time. I told them I could have stood over on the sidelines just as good as (Ramsey) did."