Selected in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Buccaneers, Derrick Brooks made an instant impact on the downtrodden franchise. An All-American at Florida State, Brooks brought an intensity and focus to the game that was hard to match.
Brooks quickly blossomed into a perennial All-Pro and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, but it was his conduct off the field that really set him apart from other players.
A man of Brooks' character is hard to come by in the NFL which has been recently plagued by players who display "me first" attitudes and have had run ins with the law.
A powerful, game changing linebacker on the field, Brooks made far greater changes in the lives of the children involved in the Brooks' Bunch; a group of inner city kids that Brooks has taken under his wing.
The importance of a good education is what Brooks preaches to these kids, and he shows them what this world has to offer by taking them all over the globe. Wherever they travel Brooks instills a desire to learn more about their surroundings and what new cultures have to offer.
Before heading to a club with a gun, players in the NFL should look at the example that Brooks set and realize that the power that they have been given as multimillionaires should be used properly.
He offers an amazing take on his role in the world when he says that "I think the Lord has put me in a position to help others." More players should take this point of view in their daily lives, not only off the field but on it as well.
Too often we see needless showboating and blatant cheap shots in the NFL. Brooks was intense on the field, but he never crossed the line. He used his passion for the game to mold himself into the best player he could be.
He became a great leader, and he was an inspiration to all those who stepped onto the field with him.
Respected by teammates, coaches, fans and opponents alike, it is sad to see Brooks leave Tampa Bay. However, with the legacy that he leaves there should and will be an inspiration to players and fans for many years to come.