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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A Lesson in Respect

Thanks to the winning student in the Red Lobster/Tampa Tribune “Fresh Catch” program, Lutz Elementary School got a visit from Bucs LB Derrick Brooks and a heartfelt message of respect


Bucs LB Derrick Brooks and team mascot Captain Fear pose with Nicholas Demas, winner of the

He's a Super Bowl champion, a seven-time Pro Bowler and a good bet for the Hall of Fame. But you can just call Derrick Brooks the 'Catch of the Day.'

Last week, Brooks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cornerstone linebacker, and team mascot Captain Fear visited Lutz Elementary School to address students about the importance of education. They were summoned to Lutz Elementary thanks to Nicholas Demas, the winning student in The Tampa Tribune's "Fresh Catch" contest.

Last September, Red Lobster and the Tampa Tribune's News in Education (NIE) Department provided teachers with a 16-page publication by that title. In addition to offering fun and interactive approaches to teaching about the health benefits of seafood and the discovery of marine life, the "Fresh Catch" publication included an interactive questionnaire. By submitting answers, students could become qualified to win an appearance from a Tampa Bay Buccaneers player and Captain Fear.

Nicholas subsequently won the drawing, which included entrants from schools in Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Brooks and Captain Fear held court for two separate groups of students in the Lutz Elementary auditorium. As the students entered the auditorium, Captain Fear entertained them with his antics, leading cheers, posing for pictures and even pretending to kick out one student who was wearing a Miami Dolphins shirt before giving the boy a hug and returning him to his seat.

Brooks then gave the students a lesson about respect and how it plays into getting a good education. To emphasize his point, Brooks shared a story about his own elementary school experience. Generally a good student, the Bucs linebacker admitted to the Lutz kids that he used to goof off all of the time after finishing his work.

In short, said Brooks, he had no respect for his teachers, once his schoolwork was done. One day, he learned the error of his ways in an unforgettable fashion. As Brooks described to the rapt audience, his father taught him that lesson by coming to school and disciplining him in front of his entire fifth grade class.

"It made me realize how important respect for other people is," said Brooks. "And from that day on, I've tried to treat people how I want to be treated."

Brooks implored the students to remember four things: 1) Respect yourself and your peers; 2) Respect your parents and you teachers; 3) Always try your best; and 4) Don't be a class clown. Not satisfied with merely relaying his message, Brooks made the students repeat his four main points back to him. He state each point and waited for the students to shout it back in unison, effectively reinforcing his message.

After his speech, Brooks opened the floor for questions. Nicholas and his fellow Lutz students learned that Brooks' favorite book is Island of the Blue Dolphins, that his alma mater is Florida State, where he is on the Board of Trustees, that he has his Masters degree in Business Communications and that he really wants to win another Super Bowl.

Brooks shared the same lesson with the second group of students to fill the auditorium. Lutz Elementary Principal Gloria Kolka couldn't have been more pleased with the content of Brooks' address.

"He focused so much on education and having that as a backup when he finishes football and I think all the kids need to know the importance of that," said Principal Gloria Kolka. "So many kids idolize football players and baseball players and they don't realize that they can't play their whole lives and they have to have an education to fall back on."

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