The results, Neff says, can be "dramatic. . . . Patients find they can do things they haven't been able to do in years."
Even without his surgical success story - or the 2006 Super Bowl ring he earned with the Pittsburgh Steelers - Brooks is an impressive figure. At 6-foot-5, he's a graceful, affable mountain of a man, as enthusiastic about transforming his life as he was about playing football.
Brooks grew up in St. Louis and played football for Kansas State, where he was encouraged to bulk up. "I had to eat extra," he says. "They gave us brown bags with sandwiches in them after dinner."
As an Eagles second-round draft pick in 1995, he weighed about 330. Professional football was a job "I was built for," Brooks recalls. "I stayed in shape. My body fat at the time was 15 to 16 percent. I probably [bench-pressed] 450."
But as a Steeler, Brooks was sometimes fined for exceeding weight limits. He had always been "an ice-cream kind of guy"; a favorite meal was corn, mashed potatoes, and chicken wings (20 at a time).
By 2005, he was concerned about his bulk. After retiring in 2007 because of a knee injury, he saw his weight rise and his quality of life decline. "I was having trouble breathing," says Brooks, now an assistant at NFL Films in Mount Laurel. "I developed sleep apnea. . . . My surgically repaired knee wasn't as strong as it used to be. I [developed] arthritis in my left knee."
He hit 400 pounds and had to use a special scale to weigh himself. At one point he weighed 430.
So he tried everything to lose weight - not easy at any age but more difficult, Neff notes, as a metabolism ages.
"I did South Beach, Atkins, prescriptions," Brooks recalls. "I even tried the cabbage diet. It got to the point where I had to do something else."
He realized that while "it took me 20 years to gain the weight, I didn't have 20 years" to lose it.
Many patients cite such feelings, says registered nurse Lisa Shaw, coordinator of the Bariatric Surgery Program at Kennedy. She knows, having undergone successful bariatric surgery in 2009.
"You're not going on a diet," Shaw says. "You're changing your way of life. You're changing your relationship with food. The key is education - and support."
While the typical patient is a woman between the ages of 30 and 50, more men are opting for bariatric surgery, including professional athletes. Last year, Eagles guard Max Jean-Gilles made headlines when he underwent a successful procedure.
Neff, who has performed more than 400 such operations since Kennedy established its program in 2007, says athletes' familiarity with the discipline of training often makes them good candidates. And Brooks, he says, "has done better than anyone. . . . He's extremely motivated."
Anyone who thinks bariatric surgery is some sort of easy, cosmetic option for an obese person who lacks, say, gumption ought to consider the reality of food in America, Neff says.
From celebrity chefs to supersizes, "our society is preoccupied with food. We're far too focused on food."
Brooks' focus, however, has shifted. "I listen to what my body is telling me," he says. "Before, I was living for what I was going to eat next."
Now, he eats to live.
"I want to live to see my grandkids," Brooks says. "I've got a lot of living to do."
Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or email@example.com.