Derrick Brooks list of accomplishments on the football field was more than enough to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 11 Pro Bowls, nine All-Pro mentions, the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner, 2,198 tackles, 224 games played between 1995 and 2008 without missing one, and a Super Bowl ring, the resume is impeccable.
Add in the character of the man himself, and it was only icing on the cake for the voters who elected the former Bucs great into the ultimate destination for anyone who ever lined up on a professional football field.
On Saturday evening, standing in front of hundreds of Bucs fans that made the trip, friends, team ownership, former coaches and teammates, Brooks and his son Decalon pulled the curtain off of the bronze bust, and his journey from Pensacola to Canton was complete.
Brooks joined Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams as members of the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Brooks opened up his speech thanking the community of Pensacola, his wife, children and other family members – including his late grandmother, stepfather and mother – and then talking about humility.
“Tonight, I guess for the first time in my life, I get a chance to enjoy some of the individual success of my career in this ultimate team game,” Brooks said. “When you hear all these things being said, it’s hard to be humble, but I tell you what, I will always be a humble man.
The second leading Buc player in games played took just over 24 minutes to deliver his acceptance speech, leaving few stones unturned. Brooks started by thanking his former youth league coaches, then high school mentors before taking time to mention his time at Florida State, giving praise to former Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews and all of his position coaches from his time in Tallahassee.
Brooks, in another classy move, started off talking about his professional career mentioning Tampa Bay’s first Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon.
“Lee Roy set the standard, and we’re just trying to walk the path he set for us,” Brooks said.
Next Brooks thanked the Bucs second member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Warren Sapp.
“He’s the best football player I’ve ever played with in my life,” Brooks said. “Without him, I wouldn’t be here.”
Brooks went onto thank a number of his teammates including Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott, Simeon Rice, Brian Kelly, John Lynch and even kicker Martin Gramatica, who Brooks joked about being important for helping to win a lot of low-scoring games during his early career.
Earlier this year, during the announcement of Brooks being selected as this year’s Ring of Honor recipient, Barber shared his thoughts on his former teammate.
“As a teammate and friend I saw professionalism and dedication reflected in everything he did,” Barber said. “It’s well deserved and exceptionally fitting that he takes his place among the all-time greats, both in the Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has earned it.”
Former Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel talked to a local Pensacola media outlet this weekend about Brooks.
“Mention Brooks, and I get a little squeamish, played against him in high school, college, and the pros and he is one of the best players I played against,” Wuerffel said. “Such a great player, gifted, talented, and at one point he was the second leading scorer in the county and he was a defensive player just an amazing guy.”
Brooks closed out his speech Saturday night vowing to make the Hall of Fame better.
“Someone also taught me, people will forget what you say, some will forget what you do, but none will ever forget how you made them feel,” Brooks said. “And guys who played with me, and ladies and gentlemen, as I go into this Hall of Fame I want you guys to know that I am going to do my best to make the Hall of Fame better because God has blessed me to be a part of it. Thank you.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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