Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks addressed the media Wednesday for the first time since his mother, Geraldine Mitchell, passed away at the age of 52 after a long battle with breast cancer on May 21.

“I really appreciate the condolences and well wishes for my family during a tough period,” said Brooks. “It’s different going to work, and the more time that goes on doesn’t make it better. You just deal with it. When the football season rolls around I guess I’ll miss another aspect of my mother. She touched a lot of people’s lives. I was quite overwhelmed by the calls, letters and support we received. She was a wonderful lady.”

Brooks, who is active in the community and has his own Brooks Bunch foundation, plans to get more involved with the American Cancer Society in memory of his mother and in an effort to help put an end to breast cancer.

In the meantime, the 10-time Pro Bowler is attempting to take his mind off of the devastating loss of his mother. He’s been participating in most of Tampa Bay’s organized team activities and busy preparing for the opening of Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, which is scheduled to open its doors to students and teachers in August.

“When the school opens it should not be a distraction for me,” Brooks said when asked if the opening of his school with interfere with his focus on football at training camp. “It should be an exciting time to be honest with you. I’ve always been able to have my priorities in order, so I don’t think it’s going to be a distraction.”

Brooks has dedicated a great deal of time over the past year to launching Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, which is still accepting applications for enrollment and employment opportunities.

It will be the only charter high school in Hillsborough County that helps high school students accelerate credit earnings at the secondary level.

It might surprise some, but BDCHS will not initially have sports teams. That, according to Brooks, was by plan.

“I’ve told the story many times of getting whipped in the fifth grade and taken off of the football team,” said Brooks. “That message was given to me then that it’s more important how you treat people than what you do in sports. [My mother] always maintained that all the way through college. I remember making a 2.8 G.P.A my freshman year and she threatened to take away my scholarship even though she couldn’t. She wasn’t happy at all with me having a C-plus average because she knew that wasn’t me. That was the last time my mother ever said anything to me about my grades. I got the message.

“That’s the message I wanted to get across in our charter application. My goal is not to find the next great high school sports academy in Tampa. My goal has always been education.”

One of the reasons Brooks insists the opening of his charter school will not be a distraction to him during preseason is because he’s entering this year’s training camp with the same goal he’s had in the previous 12 camps – to make the team.

“I still feel that way,” said Brooks. “I was watching the other day and I was telling some of the younger guys, “You took some of my reps, but that won’t happen in Orlando.’ I was just trying to joke around with them, but I do still feel the same way. We had the worst record of my career last year. With the renewed commitment and seeing us having to kind of start over and recreate this team to produce a better produce it really got my juices going.”

BDCHS will start the 2007-08 academic year with 300 students in grades 9-11. Grade 12 will be added in the second year since the school’s capacity will not exceed 500. The tentative site for the school is centrally located at 11602 North 15th Street in Tampa.

For more information, contact BDCHS executive director/principal Dr. Phildra J. Swagger at 813-971-5600. You can also visit BDCHS.org or comment or inquire via e-mail at pswagger@bdchs.org or info@bdchs.org.

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