Derrick Brooks Enshrined In Pro Football Hall Of Fame
Pensacola native Derrick Brooks was one of seven NFL greats in the Class of 2014 to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday in Canton, Ohio.
Brooks is currently a co-owner for the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League.
Brooks’ journey to the NFL began as a youngster in Pensacola, Florida. He was a standout defensive player at Washington High School and helped Florida State University win the 1993 National Championship.
He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in first round of the 1995 NFL Draft, and played his entire 14-year professional career as a linebacker for the Buccaneers.
For Brooks, the Enshrinement Ceremony was a family affair. His 15-year-old son Decalon Brooks had the honor of presenting him for induction, in a pre-taped highlight video. Decalon acknowledged his father’s intensity on the field, as well as his off-the-field commitment to children and education. Brooks founded the Brooks Bunch charity and youth charity foundation and he’s co-founder of the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa.
Finally Decalon proclaimed, “To me, he’s a hall of fame dad and player. I’m proud to present my father, Derrick Brooks, for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Brooks, wearing the iconic yellow Hall of Fame jacket, then joined his son on stage for the traditional unveiling.
“When we just unveiled that bust, it just realized to me that this is what it’s all about, no higher place to go in this game and I thank you guys,” said Brooks.
Brooks’ was the first of the seven-member of the 2014 Hall of Fame Class to be enshrined. He spoke for 24 minutes, acknowledging everyone he could beginning with the home front.
“I want to take a moment now as I start my “thank you letter” to say thank you to Pensacola, FL and everybody that came up here from Pensacola. We are definitely in the house,” he said to the cheers of the family filled crowd.
Brooks expressed his love for his wife Carol, and his other children, Darius, Brianna, and Dania. He had a special message of thanks for family members, who have since passed on, including his grandmother, Martha Brooks; stepfather, A.J. Mitchell; and his mother, Geraldine Brooks Mitchell.
“Her loving spirit always stays a part of me. She always taught me this lesson. She said never let me hear you toot your own horn because you make one sound,” he said, adding that if everyone else is talking about you, it’ll last forever.”
Brooks then traced his long journey to the NFL, first recognizing the coaches with his Baby Rattlers Youth team in Pensacola. On his next stop, he would play for the Booker T. Washington High School Wildcats and head coach, Jimmie Nichols, who was offensive coordinator for Emmitt Smith.
“I want to thank you Coach Nichols for pushing me to be the Emmitt Smith of defense.”
Brooks gives a nod to Smith, who played at cross-town rival Escambia High School before going on to his own stellar pro carreer. Smith won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. The local prep stars are the only Pensacola area players in the Hall of Fame.
Meantime, Brooks noted that he is the only Florida native to be enshrined to have played his entire career in the state; from peewee’s in Pensacola to college at Florida State in Tallahassee, and then playing for the Buccaneers for his entire 14-year career.
Along the way, there were many highlights, including an interception for a touch-down in Tampa Bay’s 2002 victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Brooks was the NFL’s Defensive Player for the 2002 regular season, which included a career-high five interceptions, three of which were returned for touch downs.
Over his career, Brooks made 11 Pro Bowls, was named All Pro six times and is a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
During his speech, he acknowledged former Bucs coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden; and teammates, including Mike Alstott, John Lynch, and Ronde Barber. Special nods went to kicker Martin Gramatica and fellow 1995 draftee and 2013 Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp.
Brooks and Sapp, both inducted in their first year of eligibility, join Lee Roy Selmon as the only Bucs players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In closing, he said “And, guys that played with me, ladies & gentlemen, as I go into this Hall of Fame, I want you guys to know that I’ll do my best to make the Hall of Fame better, because God has blessed me to be a part of it. Thank you.”
Other members of the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 are Michael Strahan (NY Giants), Andre Reed (Buffalo Bills), Aeneas Williams (Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals), Walter Jones (Seattle Seahawks), Claude Humphrey (Atlanta Falcons/Philadelphia Eagles), and Ray Guy (Oakland Raiders), who became the first ever full-time punter to be inducted.