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Kickin' Back

Heart big enough without bionics

photo
[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Derrick Brooks has warned the NCAA that if it refuses to pay student-athletes, the athletes will strike back.

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003


Derrick Brooks is in his eighth season with the Bucs and was named the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Here he is on Jesus as a teenager, bionic parts, Christopher Columbus, three blind mice, Yao Ming, Warren Sapp and raising his three children.

* * *

RM: Can you imagine hanging with Jesus when he was a teenager?

DB: Oh man, you're crazy. Jesus as a teenager? To much is given, much is required. I guess if you look at a lot of the history of the Bible, a lot of teenagers were called upon in leadership roles at a young age. Obviously, his role was different.

RM: Yeah, yeah, but what was he like? Did he hang out with the fellas? Did he chase the girls?

DB: I don't think he was a normal teenager. Maybe the temptations stayed away from him as a child. The devil probably didn't mess with him.

RM: But when he grew up, he got his party on. He turned water into wine just to keep the wedding going.

DB: That's why they have that old joke that says Jesus had to be a black man. He wasn't going to let the party stop.

RM: You remember the $6-million man and his bionic parts? If you could have a bionic body part, what would it be?

DB: It would get you into a lot of trouble, if you're married (he is).

RM: Okay, how about another body part.

DB: Then I would say my legs, for speed. In the game of football I think speed is the ultimate weapon. Speed makes a difference.

RM: What about a bionic heart; you feel no pain and live forever.

DB: No. You don't want to take away the human side of you. I want to feel the trials and tribulations of life because they affect more than me. If I went through life without feelings, I would probably make life miserable for a lot of people around me.

RM: Speaking of the $6-million man, first of all, ain't no one surviving that crash ...

DB: I'll tell you what, the best thing about the bionic man was the crash; I never watched the rest. Just that opening scene.

RM: Three blind mice, three little pigs, three billy goats gruff. Why are the fable characters always in threes?

DB: It's because they are written along the lines of good, bad and in between. Three is the odd number you need. You have one extreme and the other extreme and then you have the one that's down the middle. You need that big picture.

RM: And why were the three blind mice running? If you're blind, where are you going?

DB: I guess, you look at it as if you go through life with your eyes closed, you would probably run into something you don't want to run into. So the fourth blind mouse was smart. He just stayed there.

RM: King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella back in the day, would you have believed Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round, not flat?

DB: Without him sailing it, probably not!

RM: But you look like a guy who believes (in adventure).

DB: I probably think no, but I would issue a challenge to go prove it and then, knowing me, I would probably want to go on a voyage with him.

RM: He was a pretty brave dude.

DB: You know, I always try to put myself on the brink of things and imagine people who were the first to do something or the first to try something out of the ordinary or out of the normal thinking at that time. You try to put yourself in that world. I was watching the Martin Lawrence movie Black Knight the other day and I wondered, if you were thrown back in time, with all the knowledge you have today, what contributions could you make? But then I realized I don't know how electricity really works. I don't know how to run pipes underground to give people running water.

RM: If you were the Black Knight, what message would you have offered?

DB: I probably would have really worked hard on the sanitary situations. I'm not feeling those sanitary conditions. Then things like weapons, I probably would have worked real hard to improve on the bow and arrow.

RM: Yao Ming and Dirk Nowitzki are both bringing an international flavor to the NBA, a game solely American.

DB: It's great. I'm a Houston fan, so I like Yao Ming. But bigger than that is the message that you have to do whatever it takes to win and that drives people to all corners of the earth to find talent. The racial and cultural aspects of the game are irrelevant now. Guys want to win. Fans want to see a winner. They don't necessarily care what culture that person is from as long as he's helping the team win games.

RM: And international players are no longer intimidated by the American counterparts.

DB: You can see, for instance, the biggest difference in baseball, where all the Japanese players have been saying for years that they have just as good players as Americans. There's only one way to prove it. They used to play each other but (those were exhibition games). They want everyday competition. But you have the everyday success of (Mariners outfielder) Ichiro (Suzuki). That furthered the opportunity of Yao Ming. I don't think Yao Ming would have come over here had it not been for Ichiro.

RM: How would you parent LeBron James?

DB: I think the key is that his dad, or whoever is responsible for him, keep a level head. Regardless of the success I have had, my mom has always had little things to do to keep me level-headed. Whether it is that I can't come into her house after a certain hour or I have to have permission to drive her car, even though I pay for it. I have to go and take the trash out. She still finds little stuff for me to do. But you have to always remind him that with one bad step, one bad injury, it could all be over.

RM: It can't be easy to know the world is paying attention to your 17-year-old.

DB: First and foremost, you show him that you're proud. Secondly, you have to discipline him. Then you find ways to make it a win-win situation for everyone. That's what bothers me about the college situation. On the college level, you play and all the shoe companies are making your uniforms but you don't get paid. You go to bowl games and schools and conferences are making all the money but the players are the ones people are coming to see.

RM: Will a day come when college players get paid?

DB: Yes. Sooner than we think. I've gone on the record, as a part of the NCAA executive committee, and told them so. What if you take the Final Four, the biggest revenue-generating thing in college sports, and the players sat out and didn't play the two games? What if that happened? I've told them that it's going to happen. Players are going to get fed up. College players are sick of it. What if they boycotted the game? The NCAA would have to listen to players. What would the repercussions be?

RM: But there will be a price to pay.

DB: What, they'll take your scholarship? Please. They're betting that playing for the national championship and being on television will stop that. I say, the guys who make it to the national championship weekend already have been on TV the whole year. I told the NCAA, "Don't be surprised if it happens." Now, I'm not provoking anything. Guys before me have talked about it quietly about making a revolutionary change. Guys are going to get sick of it unless there is change in the direction they're going in. Guys read and see major television contracts being signed every year. Where are we benefiting?

RM: In that vein, should Tiger Woods be revolutionary and sit out the Masters?

DB: The lady that's leading the charge on this, she even said that it's unfair to ask Tiger to do this, because it's not only his battle. She knows he's a powerful voice who could make an impact, but you can't make a man take a battle that isn't his. If Tiger felt that strongly about the issue himself, then if he did that it would be cool. Some other voices could be that powerful just depending on who's listening. Arnold Palmer could be a voice. Jack Nicklaus.

RM: Would you play golf at Augusta?

DB: Probably not. Going back to the principles that they were built on, I don't agree with it. I won't play at the country club in Pensacola and I've been asked to play there several times.

RM: Why do teenagers have to wear their pants so low that you can see their drawers?

DB: Every young man who is part of my Brooks Bunch group, before they walk into that room, they will have a belt on. They will have their shirts tucked in. I don't tolerate that.

RM: But it's part of the hip-hop generation.

DB: It's not part of my program. They tell me it's hip when they do it. I tell them it's not hip for the three hours when you're with us. I hate to see it. One way I'm going to have an influence on the young men is to make sure they carry themselves well. Same with the young ladies. If you're not dressed properly you have to go.

RM: You and Warren have forged quite a relationship. How does that work considering that you're very different individuals?

DB: It's one of those things where Warren respects who I am and what I'm all about. He doesn't cross that line. I know what I get when I get Warren Sapp. I don't get what the public gets and that's key. I know who he is and how he's going to be. Now, part of him is what you get in the public eye, but that's not what I get. I'll get that, plus what he's like behind closed doors. He doesn't owe it to anybody to let them know what he's like behind closed doors. He doesn't. I respect that.

RM: When did it dawn on you that you and Warren had a special bond?

DB: Really since high school. We go way back. We may have played at a different college and I knew he was going to be a great player. He had that swagger and he went to a college (Miami) that enhanced that swagger about him. But we go back to a moment years ago when we're sitting there in San Diego and we were called the Yuckaneers. I remember the look he gave me and I'm sure I gave him a similar look back. It was one of those moments where you can't put words to it. We looked at each other and knew that we could go out like that. We said to each other, we're going to turn this thing around or we're going to die trying.

RM: Do you buy that one day, if it hasn't happened already, you and Warren will usurp Lee Roy Selmon as the image of the Bucs?

DB: That's high praise. I don't know. Look how Lee Roy carries himself. Look how he was as a pro. Look how he turned USF's football program into a major program. What other image can you want to follow as the image of the franchise? The bar is high and he endured a lot.

RM: Describe how you felt when you watched Tony Dungy lose last weekend.

DB: I was very hurt for him. Very hurt. Just seeing the look on his face and knowing what's at stake, the type of team he's trying to build, did not show up. I haven't spoken to Coach Dungy yet, but we'll talk in the offseason.

RM: In 10 years, I'm going to ...

DB: Be the best dad that I could possibly be.

RM: In 15 years, I'm going to ...

DB: Be 44 years old and only the Lord knows where I'm going.

RM: In 30 years, I'm going to ... DB: Be retired officially. I want to be living. Be a grandfather in the best possible health that I can and be the foundation of a family. A Brooks legacy that believes in what I believe in today and that is, "Put God first in all you do and treat others the way you want them to treat you."

RM: My mother once told me that a man can gain his immortality through his children. What do you think?

DB: I see me in my kids. I know this: The things I do today will affect them tomorrow. Kids are cursed or blessed through the decisions their mothers and fathers make, big or small decisions.


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