One played outside linebacker, the other plays the middle. One has eleven Pro Bowls, was a five-time All Pro, a Walter Payton Man of the Year award winner (2000), and nominated NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2002). The other won the Butkus Award (2018), was a consensus All American (2018), a second team All American (2017), and was twice nominated First Team All SEC (2017, 2018). The one, Derrick Brooks, is retired, in the HOF, and has had both his FSU number (#10) and his Buccaneers number (#55) retired. The other, Devin White, just might be the most talented linebacker in the 2019 draft class.
I didn’t make this comparison because I thought White’s body of work would stand up to Derrick’s. I made it because Derrick Brooks came to the Buccaneers at what has proved to be the biggest turning point in the organization, 1995. He brought no ego, a whole lot of faith, and a smile that could assist ships into the Tampa Bay shipping channel from the Gulf of Mexico. White brings a tenacity that you need to see from a monster in the middle, the Mike linebacker position. He says he wants to lead a defense and that his next contract will be 100 million.
The leaders that Tony Dungy made on the team were leaders who earned that title, not requested it. Derrick Brooks never said he was the leader of one of the best defenses in NFL history. But he sure put the team on his back many times and carried us to victory.
Buccaneers fans are not expecting every linebacker to be the next double nickel. Devin White, if drafted by Tampa Bay, does not have to come in here and race to his next contract. If this young man were to find himself in red and pewter this fall, he would do well to use Derrick Brooks as an example of how to become a real team leader. Not by saying it, but by doing it.