This article was originally printed in the Pewter Report.
I was too young to remember Buccaneer great Lee Roy Selmon. I was three when he took his first snap in the NFL, six when he led the Buccaneers to their first division championship and an appearance in the 1979 NFC Championship game. When Lee Roy took his last snap in 1984, I was eleven and just beginning to understand what I was seeing on the football field.
I'd watch grainy NFL films videos of Lee Roy and bad VCR copies of the ‘79 playoff games but none of it was the same as seeing the Hall of Famer play live. I knew Lee Roy more as an ambassador for USF football and his restaurant chain than what occurred on the gridiron.
While Lee Roy was before my time, I'll be able to tell the next generation that I saw Derrick Brooks play and he was the greatest Buccaneer football player I've ever seen.
Some would argue Sapp, Lynch, Barber, or Alstott. All are wonderful football players and were integral parts of the Bucs' Super Bowl championship.
For me though, Brooks was the epitome of a Hall of Fame player. From his play on the field (eleven Pro Bowls, five first-team All-Pro selections, 2,198 tackles, eight defensive touchdowns, and 221 consecutive starts), his quiet leadership, and his outreach to the community, no player is greater than Mr. Derrick Brooks.
John Lynch didn't become Lynch until Brooks arrived. Along with Sapp, Brooks turned around a franchise that had been awful for over a decade. Brooks and Sapp changed the culture in Tampa Bay and led the charge to get behind new head coach Tony Dungy. With the team behind him, Dungy would mold the Buccaneers into a perennial playoff team and contender.
Brooks on the field revolutionized the outside linebacker position. Considered too small to play the position by draft experts, Brooks was a perfect fit for the Tampa Two defense, making his name patrolling sideline-to-sideline. When Brooks was in his prime, no one dared run sweeps against the Tampa Two. Screen passes were gobbled up like Thanksgiving turkey.
Brooks was the answer for the question, "How do you stop Michael Vick?"
If you were going to beat the Buccaneer defense, it would have to be over the top - and with Lynch and Barber in the backfield - good luck.
Who else but Brooks would be the one to put the exclamation point on Super Bowl XXXVII with his game clinching interception return for a touchdown?
There it is! The Dagger's in!
Through 224 games at one of the most violent positions in pro sports, Derrick Brooks personified what it meant to be a professional football player.
While he enters a new chapter of life, at least with this Bucs fan he will be the standard to what all future Buccaneer players are measured against.
Stay thirsty for Bucs football, my friends.