One played for the Hurricanes, one played for the Seminoles, at a time when the rivalry was the biggest, best and most talented in the country. But Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks were friends, nothing could change that. True story: During Sapp's redshirt season in 1991, he attended the 1991 FSU-Miami game in Tallahassee. He stayed in Brooks' room at Burt Reynolds Hall. Brooks played as a true freshman. "It's true," Brooks said. "To him, it was, 'I'm coming up to see my boy.' We didn't think anything of it. We talked about our teams, not ourselves." Of course, the 1991 game was a classic in the series. Second-ranked Miami held off top-ranked FSU, 17-16, when Seminoles kicker Gerry Thomas missed - wait for it - Wide Right I.
Brooks was crushed. His friend came up to him. "I feel for you," Sapp said. Then, quickly: "We still going to hang out?" They still hung out. Pillars of the defense Tony Dungy had definite ideas when he became Bucs head coach in 1996. One was to build his team around his defense, and his defense around Sapp and Brooks, among others. He told the two of them to chase greatness, to be to the Bucs what Joe Greene and Jack Ham were to those great world champion Steelers teams Dungy played on. "He's saying it so calm that it's sinking into your eyes," Sapp said. Dungy also had another idea. "When I first came here, I said we were going to get rid of all the cliques, the way they did it before," Dungy said. "I decided we were going alphabetical on roommates, no special treatment. Rich McKay said, 'You can't do that.' What do you mean I can't do that? Rich says, 'OK, you can do it, but you better find an alphabet where B comes right before S, because Brooks is the only guy who can room with Sapp.'?" Constant give and take Sapp and fellow Bucs defensive tackle Booger McFarland always argued about who was faster. "Sapp kept woofing. Me and him kept going back and forth," McFarland said. "Finally, we race, and I beat him. So Sapp comes in the locker room and he says to Brooks, 'Man, Doom, we're getting old." Brooks didn't even blink. "No, you getting old. I didn't lose the race." Sapp laughed. Close down the Vet! Veterans Stadium was done, so were the Eagles, and the buses were full and ready to go, horns blasting, to the Philadelphia airport. The Bucs were NFC champions. Sapp took his usual seat up front. So did Brooks. "Let's go to a Super Bowl," Brooks said. "Let's do it," Sapp said. Super Bowl champs Brooks had just run back an interception to seal the deal against the Raiders. It was Super Bowl night. The Buccaneers were world champions. Sapp went to be with his guy. "I met him in the end zone," Sapp said. "I take one look and he's, 'We did it, Doom, we did it.' I said, 'Hey, what are you doing? Get away from me. You'll start me crying.'" Emotional moment Another night: New Orleans, this year, early February. Sapp has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After the announcement show, he begins to leave the stage. He sees Brooks. They embrace. "No words, just the sound of both of us crying," Sapp said.