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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Brooks: Sapp loud, loyal, one of my guys

It wasn't running on the field at Raymond James Stadium, or down the sideline with an interception when we won the Super Bowl in San Diego, but it was one of the most important runs of my life - I had to get there, be there. My teammate and friend, Warren Sapp, had been elected to the Hall of Fame the day before the Super Bowl. I was at an appearance - then I wasn't. I was tearing down the streets of New Orleans, in cowboy boots, no less, sweat pouring off me. I had to be there to hug Sapp after the announcement. How could I not be? Before he came off stage, I got there. We hugged. There were no words. As a teammate, you were one of his guys. From the highest of the highs to the lowest of the lows, Sapp understood the stage was big enough for everyone. He knew he was a part of something, the Bucs defense, a collective. If you were a part of it, you were his guy. No one was more loyal.
We met as high school all stars in a Florida-Georgia game. We became friends. He was loud, always something to say. I was a listener. Secretly, I enjoyed this young man's confidence. It stayed that way as our Florida State and Miami teams battled. It's still that way. That draft day in 1995, I hated when he slipped because of the rumors, none true. Then the Buccaneers selected him. Then they took me. To be honest with you, it made me smile knowing it was going to be me and Sapp together, maybe a chip or two on our shoulders, like any good Florida kids. I knew we had a chance to make something in Tampa, make our own history. Ninety-nine was an extraordinary football player, the best I ever saw at the three-technique. More to the point, he wanted to be great. He wanted to win. He wanted to change this franchise. There was a time in 1996 in San Diego, on a road trip. We were always roommates. We called each other "Doom," because it rhymed with "room." Anyway, that day, we heard the ESPN guys calling us "The Yucks." We told each other that had to stop. Got to. To be honest, it was in the back of our minds every day we went to do our jobs. Sapp worked as hard as anyone, pushed as he was by Rod Marinelli. No one talks about how hard Sapp worked - or how smart the man is. What a mind, for football or anything else. He's always got an opinion. Just ask him. Sapp did it his way, always. What he and I had between us, our relationship, our mutual respect, well, that's for us. It's what Sapp and I have. Lord willing, I'll be in Canton for his induction, like I was there with him in San Diego when we said the jokes would stop, and seven years later in San Diego, when we became Super Bowl champs. And like I was there for him in New Orleans after the Hall of Fame announcement. You made it, Doom, you made it. Derrick Brooks was an 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker in his 14-year NFL career, all with the Buccaneers. He is currently president of the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League.
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