(Sept. 22, 2021) – Why would a former NFL defensive tackle from a Super Bowl-winning team and a veteran of European League basketball leave professional sports to retrain for new careers in the public service sector?
That is exactly what two young men are doing this fall at Alamance Community College in Haw River.
Former Seattle Seahawk Mic’hael Brooks and former European League player Lamont Hamilton are both enrolled in the Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) program at the college this fall. Both former athletes have traded in their cleats and sneakers, respectively, to become law enforcement officers in a career move that speaks volumes about their commitment to public service.
Yanceyville native Mic’hael Brooks, 30, excelled on the football field at Bartlett-Yancey High School, recording 331 tackles as a three-year all-region, all-conference, and defensive MVP selection. At East Carolina University, he played in 43 games for the Pirates between 2009-2012 and recorded 52 solo tackles and 10 sacks. He also earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors and All Conference his senior year. With those credentials, the NFL loomed.
“I’d always imagined it would be hard work to get to the professional level and a lot of dedication. But I knew in the end if I could get to that elite level, it would be a rewarding career,” said Brooks.
Initially signed by the Detroit Lions in May 2013, the Seattle Seahawks claimed Brooks off waivers and he joined the team for quarterback Russell Wilson’s first full season as starter.
“Finally making the Seahawks team was really a dream come true,” said Brooks. “Once selected, it really set in that all my hard work finally paid off. I was able to play and compete daily with an elite group of athletes and I loved every minute of it.”
Brooks spent the early season as a member of the Seahawks practice squad until he was named to the active roster in November 2013.
“Consistency really played a part in not only my day to day as a professional athlete, but consistency has been a part of my entire life. Being a defensive tackle, I had to be alert, quick, and fluid every play. I instilled in myself the importance on not making mistakes and being able to do the same thing at a high level every day,” said Brooks.
That season, the Seahawks won their first Super Bowl in February 2014, defeating the Denver Broncos 43-8.
“It [the Super Bowl] was a powerful experience, which I know is only a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Brooks. “Having the chance to be on one of the biggest stages in sports history was a humbling experience. Receiving the Super Bowl Championship ring was truly a special moment that I got to share with a select group of people.”
Ultimately, injuries played a major role in Brooks’ transition from the NFL to the Canadian Football League (CFL). Released by the Seahawks, he signed with the BC Lions where he played in 28 games, accumulating 62 tackles and four quarterback sacks. He was named a CFL West All-Star for the 2015 season.
“In the CFL, I was met with a lot of love from the team and fans,” said Brooks. “I had opportunities to return to the NFL but ultimately chose to continue my career in the CFL.”
Brooks also played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, recording 15 tackles in 11 games in 2018, before suffering a season-ending ankle injury that ultimately forced his retirement from professional sports.
“I always had a plan to leave professional sports by the time I was thirty. Because of injuries I had in college ball, I understood this game wouldn’t last forever,” said Brooks. “I think having that mindset since I left college prepared me for when the time came to finally retire. I was at peace with my decision and happy to start this next chapter in my life.”
Brooks said that, although his agility in sports became his focus growing up, he always had an interest in law enforcement. While he played football at East Carolina University, he also was earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Once his football career ended, Brooks returned to North Carolina and settled in Raleigh. He studied his options of where to enroll in a BLET, or Basic Law Enforcement Training program.
Basic Law Enforcement Training at the community college level is the equivalent of a police academy. Everyone who chooses to join the ranks of law enforcement in North Carolina must first complete BLET, a state mandated program overseen by the North Carolina Department of Justice, Training and Standards Division.
“All of the instructors used at our program are subject matter experts in the topic they teach. All are current or former law enforcement officers or employees of a law enforcement agency,” said Chris Verdeck, Director of ACC’s BLET program.
Physical training in ACC’s BLET program is extensive, explained Verdeck. The cadets must complete a minimum of 39 one-hour sessions. They also must successfully complete the Police Officers Physical Abilities Test (POPAT), an obstacle-style course that represents physical challenges an officer may encounter.
“I knew how prestigious the program at Alamance Community College was, and I wanted to learn from the best to be one of the best,” said Brooks. “I expect to be pushed mentally and physically and to have the opportunity for great mentorship.”
“While North Carolina mandates 640 hours for a BLET program, our academy at ACC is 757 hours,” said Verdeck. “We add hours to the higher liability topics, and we add to the final class called Impartial Policing, which is about recognizing bias. We think that’s important.”
Once a cadet successfully completes the BLET program, he or she must take a comprehensive state exam administered by the NC Training and Standards Division. Once cadets pass that exam, they are eligible to be hired at a law enforcement agency.
After completing BLET and getting to work at the local law enforcement level, Mic’hael Brooks said he hopes to one day work at the federal level to help people worldwide.
For basketball stalwart Lamont “Monty” Hamilton, 37, his journey toward professional sports began in the projects in his native Brooklyn, NY where he was surrounded by violence, including domestic violence at home, and people making bad choices.
“Growing up I always wanted to do something to help my community and give back in some way,” he said, “but I didn’t really know how then. But it’s always been a kind of calling, you could say. I wanted to guide kids like me.”
Hamilton persevered in his youth, attended three different prep schools, and found his talents lay in playing basketball. By the time he finished high school, he was gifted a full scholarship to play basketball at St. John’s University in Queens, NY. By his senior year, Hamilton was named to the All-Big East Conference First Team in 2007. It was also at St. John’s that he met his wife of eleven years.
But fate took hold on St. John’s senior night when Hamilton went down with a knee injury that kept him off the court for three months. He missed the important summer league camps that year. Worse, he was not drafted by the NBA, a major disappointment that resonated with a host of negative emotions about his future.
But Hamilton’s viewpoint changed when a fresh opportunity to play in the world of international basketball with the European League presented itself. He began his pro career in 2007 with Basquet Inca of the Spanish Second Division. He ultimately played for professional basketball clubs in France, Russia, Turkey, and Japan for 13 years. In 2013, he was named to the EuroCup’s All-EuroCup Second Team.
But in the beginning, it wasn’t an easy transition to play in Europe and beyond after playing college sports in the United States. Hamilton didn’t know how he would deal with such long periods away from his family. Then there was the culture shock of having to learn day-to-day tasks in foreign countries. But it wasn’t long before he fell in love with the coaches, the teams, and the rush of traveling all over the world. His earlier disappointment turned into appreciation for a new experience.
“Many times I could not speak more than a handful of words in a given language, but the fans would still support you win or lose,” said Hamilton. “It was like nothing I had ever experienced before and I am thankful that my children grew up watching me on and off the court immersed in these different cultures. There is honestly nothing like it. I don’t regret the route life took me, not one bit.
It was ultimately the Covid-19 pandemic and a hiring freeze overseas that forced Hamilton to reevaluate what he wanted in his life.
“As athletes we all have something like a shelf life, and for me it was good to be able to leave on my own terms,” he said. “It was time to think of what came next and what type of career I wanted to have. Law enforcement has always been on my list and I knew I wanted to help change the narrative surrounding law enforcement today. I also hoped for my children to look up to me and be proud while feeling protected and safe.”
With his training in BLET at Alamance Community College this year, Hamilton knew he faced an adjustment after being out of school for the past 15 years. But he also knows he has what it takes to persevere through new experiences to become successful.
“I look forward to affecting change, building community and learning how to be a leader in a new profession,” he said. “I look forward to the day when people look up at me and call me ‘detective.’”