CANTON, Ohio — Batting leadoff at the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony Saturday night, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks is planning on going off script during his acceptance speech.
As his presenter, the 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker of the Buccaneers has chosen his son, Decalon, who will be a sophomore at Tampa’s Gaither High this fall.
“My first preference was having all of my kids say something, but I had to pick just one,” said Brooks. “Since Decalon started playing football, I’ve always been directly involved with him, and now he gets a chance to be directly involved with me. I am anxious to see what he says representing his brothers and sisters.”
Chris Berman will serve as the host and NFL Network and ESPN will each televise the enshrinement activities, beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Brooks will be the first to speak among the seven members of the Class of 2014.
“I like to keep the mindset that this is a speech that is going to go out and touch others, but I don’t want to put any added pressure on myself to say this is any more important than 1-on-1 communication with somebody’s life you’re trying to change,’’ Brooks said.
“For me, I just want to thank people that were a big influence on my football career and my life. At the same time, leave with a message of who Derrick Brooks is today and who Derrick Brooks wants to be moving forward.’’
When Brooks looks out from the podium to the crowd, he will see a huge contingent of former teammates, coaches, team officials and family members who traveled to Canton to support him.
Former Bucs Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Anthony McFarland and Shelton Quarles are expected at Fawcett Stadium, along with current Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith and Falcons president Rich McKay, the former Bucs general manager who drafted Brooks out of Florida State in 1995.
Hall of Fame officials have asked all of the new members to limit their speeches to 12 minutes.
“The challenge is to do all that within the time window that is alloted for me,’’ Brooks said. “I’ve put a lot of thought into the speech. I don’t want to write too much of it down because I really like to speak from my heart. Yes, I’ve worked on it, but at the same time, probably much of my speech will be from the heart because that’s who I am.’’