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Sports Then and Now

Derrick Brooks Begins Countdown To The Hall of Fame

Posted on August 14, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Derrick Brooks was the defensive leader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 14 seasons.

Throughout NFL history, the linebacker position has typically been the glamor spot on defense. Players like Butkus, Nitschke, Huff, Singletary, Taylor and Carson all became household names and epitomized the ferocity of the NFL while roaming the field with reckless abandon.

Over the last two decades that tradition has been continued by players such as Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis. However, perhaps the best linebacker of this generation has been a player whose name and image is not as familiar to most NFL fans as that of other players at his position.

For 14 seasons, Derrick Brooks patrolled from sideline to sideline for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while serving as the leader of the best unit of his generation. During that time he never missed a game and earned 11 Pro Bowl trips and five times was named a first-team All Pro.

Yet, when most people think of the great Tampa Bay defenses of the 1990s and 2000s the images that often come to mind are those of Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber and John Lynch. While those three were often earning TV time with big sacks, hits or interceptions, Brooks was quietly making the plays that helped make the defense special.

During a 12-year span from 1997 through 2008, the Bucs ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in both allowing the fewest points and fewest yards 11 times. Six times they ranked among the top 5 in the NFL in both categories and in 2002 led the league in both categories.

Brooks was the top tackler for the Buccaneers eight times during that stretch and finished his career with 2,198 tackles, 25 interceptions, 24 forced fumbles and seven defensive touchdowns.

Because the sack has been lifted to such a high status that defensive impact is often associated with a players sack total, Brooks occasionally is forgotten or overlooked. Sure he registered only 13 sacks during his career, but he was busy making the plays that allowed Sapp, Simeon Rice and others to get to the quarterback.

Though he did not play in 2009 after being unceremoniously released by the Buccaneers following the 2008 campaign, Brooks did not officially retire until this past week.

It should be a “no brainer” that Brooks will receive his ultimate recognition with selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. However, given the unpredictability of the HOF selection committee there is no guarantee. Let’s hope that the voters don’t get caught up in the numbers and instead give this quiet superstar the recognition he so richly deserves.

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