Interview: Derrick Brooks
Jan. 26, 2014
One of the Good Guys
From 1996 to 2008, Derrick Brooks was regarded as one of the most respected players in the National Football League. The unquestioned leader of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a top linebacker during his professional career, Brooks started more than 200 consecutive games. His ability to run down some of the NFL’s top playmakers led Brooks to become the most prolific tackler in Buccaneers history.
The 2002 season ranks as the best of Brooks’ career, during which he led Tampa Bay to its first Super Bowl championship, was named The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, and racked up numerous all-pro and most valuable player honors from various sports publications and organizations.
Brooks has been the recipient of several prestigious accolades, including the 2000 Walter Payton/NFL Man of the Year award, the 2003 Bart Starr Award, the 2004 Byron “Whizzer” White Award, and the 2008 JB Award through the NFL Players Association.
Eric Tiansay recently interviewed Brooks for the Pentecostal Evangel. Brooks shared how his Christian faith impacted his playing career and how his relationship with Jesus Christ influences his roles as president of the Tampa Bay Storm and founder of Derrick Brooks Charities.
evangel: How did you see God work in you and the team the season the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl?
DERRICK BROOKS: We had favored moments that year. I got married to my high school sweetheart, Carol, before the 2002 season. Our chapel and Bible study group was relevant. I can honestly say it was more about us as men versus us as just football players.
When it comes to sports, I don’t believe you’re more favored by God over another team. God doesn’t judge winners or losers. It’s about your heart. Do you believe Jesus died and saved you from your sins at the cross? If you do, you will be saved and forgiven.
What are your best and worst memories from the Super Bowl season?
The best moment was during the Bucs’ 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII — I returned an interception off Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon 44 yards for a touchdown that sealed our win. The worst was we lost to the New Orleans Saints twice that year.
Were you surprised that the Bucs won? How did God use this honor to minister to you and others?
No, I expected us to win. God had given me the platform to play football to spread the gospel. My whole career is a platform to serve God.
How did you join the Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm?
Tampa Bay Storm CEO and owner Jeff Vini hired me as team president in April 2011. They were looking for a leader, and he sought me. I am responsible for the overall day-to-day operations of the team. My goal is to be the best team president.
Tell us about your foundation, Derrick Brooks Charities.
It started out with giving a couple of kids tickets to Bucs games. The Brooks Bunch program led the way for the formation of Derrick Brooks Charities. The Brooks Bunch was founded in 1997, and consisted of youth from the Wilbert Davis, Ybor City, and Brandon Boys & Girls clubs.
As a rookie, I began to visit the Boys & Girls clubs as a way to encourage and motivate the children to excel in the classroom. During one visit, I realized through conversation with a young girl that the kids at the club had not experienced things average Americans take for granted. The idea behind the Brooks Bunch was born.
What started as a day trip on an airplane to Fort Lauderdale has grown into a program that incorporates a classroom element, a panel presentation, and behavior and grade assessments, all while leading up to trips around the country and the world. In 2000 and 2005, Brooks Bunch members, who earned their way, traveled with me to South Africa where we visited Johannesburg, Cape Town, Robben Island, and Sabi Sabi safari camp.
God has really blessed Brooks Bunch. It’s not my vision, but God’s.
In addition to the Brooks Bunch program, Derrick Brooks Charities includes annual programs such as the college preparatory program “First and Goal,” which prepares first-generation college attendees for their next step in life — post-secondary education.
In August 2007, I realized one of my lifelong goals with the opening of the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School. Through a partnership with the DeBartolo family, I was able to oversee the implementation of the only traditional charter high school in the Tampa Bay area.
What is your favorite Bible verse and its significance?
Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (NIV). Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
One gives me guidance, and the other verse gives me purpose.