Although Buccaneers fans would love to hear more and more about the team from Derrick Brooks, that certainly wasn’t the only reason I wanted to speak with him. Brooks has been entrenched in the community through his foundations and charities and, in his professional life, has been a part of the Tampa Bay Storm franchise for the last five years.
Wanting to hear more about those aspects of his life, I began by speaking with him about those foundations as well as the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School;
Article continues below ...
James Yarcho: Steering away from past and present Buccaneers, you personally started the Brooks Bunch foundation. You and Eddie DeBartolo teamed up for the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School. What is it about working with and helping out youth that really spoke to you above other charities, other foundations? We’ve seen Warrick Dunn help out single mothers, a cause that’s incredibly important to him from his past experiences, you see players like a DeAngelo Williams who’s very involved in breast cancer awareness – again, a very personal issue to him. So what was it about the youth in the Tampa area that you originally, then teaming up with Mr. DeBartolo, to really reach out and focus your energy on them?
Derrick Brooks: Youth education has always been my passion point. I love education. Education in my opinion is the equalizer in any regard. It’s what we do with it, you know? And how far we want to advance it determines a lot about who we are. I have always been God gifted when it comes to my ability in a classroom. Ever since I was a young man, I’ve been able to pick up on things and process them and make good grades. Just through that love of education when I moved here to Tampa that ended up being where God really ended up showing his gift to me in terms of giving to this community is through the educational realm, especially youth education.
We’ve provided that through Derrick Brooks charities over a great number of years. Ended up in educational field trips and the Lord blessed us to take that same vein of energy and focus and approach the DeBartolo family about a partnership in an educational institution. Providing the best education possible that would mimic a private school education that people pay for, we wanted to not only provide that, but give them more and not charge for them. That’s what’s been out mantra – ‘Private school education, public school cost’ – and make our institution of education the best in the country.
JY: Speaking of education, you got yours at Florida State. Your son DeCalon had verbally committed to Florida State. As a father, how did it make you feel when you realized he was going to follow in your footsteps, go to your Alma Mater, and want to be part of that Florida State family?
Aug 8, 2015; Canton, OH, USA; Derrick Brooks during the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
DB: I’ve been very open minded about this process in terms of where he wanted to pursue his education. DeCalon is a young man that’s very comfortable walking in his own skin and measuring his own standards against himself, and not his dad. I’ve done the best job I possibly can to be a parent first to my son and if football was in the cards for him, it was. If it wasn’t, it wasn’t. And I’ve always maintained that even through his decision. Is this the institution you want to pursue your education and football is not a part of the equation, then let’s make it happen. That was a satisfying answer to me, that’s how he felt, that Florida State is the place for him whether there’s football or not, so now he can move on and he’ll see what life experiences FSU has for him 26 years later than it had for me as his dad.
JY: Now, I promised my own dad I would ask you this – as lifelong Illinois fans, is he sure he doesn’t want to go play for Lovie [Smith]? *laughs*
DB: *laughs* Yeah. My son is as sure as he told me he is and, you know, that’s one thing I can always say about him. If he gives someone his word, he will follow through with it.
JY: Well, of course I wish him the best – both on the field and in the classroom. Just one more quick question for you. You’ve been part owner and team president for the Storm since 2011. What has that experience been like? From seeing the on-field side of football to now being in front office side of football, is there any desire to transition this experience to the NFL one day or are you just as happy as can be with the Storm?
DB: Right now, I’m thrilled that Mr. Vinik and Tod Leiweke gave me this opportunity to lead in management and grow. And I just try to take each and every day as a growing experience to be better at my job in leading. You know, whatever role that this experience is preparing me for, I try to stay in the moment, try not to look ahead, and try to be the best President and GM of the Tampa Bay Storm as I possibly can.
I can’t begin to thank Mr. Brooks enough for giving me a little of his time, to speak with me about the Buccaneers and his post-NFL ventures. We at the Pewter Plank would like to congratulate him again on being named our Most Beloved Buccaneer of All Time and wish him nothing but continued success with the Tampa Bay Storm, the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, and look forward to hopefully speaking with him again in the future.