LB Derrick Brooks could add to his impressive list of honors if he is chosen as the Bart Starr Award winner on January 31
Derrick Brooks, who has been the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the NFL Man of the Year, could add another impressive award to his collection this year.
As one of four finalists for the Bart Starr Award, Brooks will be in Houston during the upcoming Super Bowl week to learn if he is the 16th winner of this prestigious honor.
The Bart Starr Award is voted on by NFL players at the same time that Pro Bowl ballots are cast. Named for the legendary Green Bay quarterback, the MVP of Super Bowls I and II, the award is given to the player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community. Starr was selected as a model for the award because of his life-long commitment to these standards.
Starr himself will be on hand to present the award on Saturday, January 31, at the NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast. The other three finalists are Micheal Barrow (New York Giants), Jon Kitna (Cincinnati Bengals) and Troy Vincent (Philadelphia Eagles).
Considered one of the marquee Super Bowl events, the Athletes in Action-hosted program for business executives will also feature former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves. Special guests will include Hall of Fame members and former Bart Starr Award winners Mike Singletary and Anthony Muñoz. Former San Francisco 49er and NFL television analyst, Brent Jones – another former Starr winner – will emcee.
Former Buccaneer quarterback Trent Dilfer was last year's award winner, as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Brooks could become the first Buccaneer selected as the Bart Starr award recipient.
Past winners read like a list of current and future Hall of Famers, including Muñoz, Singletary, Steve Largent, Reggie White, Darrell Green, Aeneas William, Irving Fryar, Bruce Matthews and Darren Woodson.
Brooks was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, en route to leading the Buccaneers to their first World Championship. In 2000, he was the co-recipient of the Walter Payton/NFL Man of the Year award, one of the most important honors given out by the league every year.
Brooks had another outstanding year on and off the field in 2003. He led the team with 151 tackles and added two interceptions, a sack, three forced fumbles and nine passes defensed. He also continued and expanded upon such community endeavors as his highly-regarded 'Brooks' Bunch' program, his work on the NFLPA Diversity Committee, his appointment to the Florida State University Board of Trustees and the establishment of his own foundation, The Derrick Brooks Charities.
Sapp to Miss Pro Bowl
A few days after attending the Super Bowl proceedings in Houston, Brooks will head out to Honolulu to prepare for his seventh straight Pro Bowl. The Buccaneers will actually be represented by four players in the NFL's all-star contest, but only three will actually be in Hawaii to play the game.
Defensive tackle Warren Sapp will not play in his seventh Pro Bowl due to injuries. He will be replaced on the NFC squad by Philadelphia defensive tackle Corey Simon.
Sapp is dealing with injuries to his left foot and left ankle. Late in the season, those ailments caused him to miss his first game since 1999, as he sat out the Bucs' victory over Houston on December 14. The week prior, Sapp had missed the second half of Tampa Bay's win at New Orleans after injuring the plantar fascia in his left foot.
In addition to Sapp and Brooks, the Bucs will also be represented in the Pro Bowl by WR Keenan McCardell and DE Simeon Rice. Brooks and Rice are both slated to start the game. By earning invites for the seventh straight year, Sapp and Brooks established new Buccaneer records for most consecutive Pro Bowl selections and most Pro Bowl selections overall.
Quarterback Brad Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowler himself, set a variety of franchise records in 2003, including most touchdown passes in a season (26) and most consecutive games with a scoring toss (11).
Johnson also reached a milestone in 2003 that puts him in some very select company in the history of the NFL. His completion percentage of 62.1% (354-570) fell just a bit short of his own Buccaneer record in that category (62.3%, set last year), but it marked the eighth consecutive season that Johnson has completed at least 60% of his passes.
Only the famous 49er duo of Joe Montana and Steve Young have equaled that feat. Montana did it first, from 1980-87, then Young followed with his own streak in San Francisco, from 1991-98. Johnson could become the first quarterback in NFL history to make it nine years in a row by completing at least 60 percent of his passes again in 2004.
Johnson's 1995 season in Minnesota, in which he completed 25 of 36 passes (69.4%) as a reserve, is not included in the streak. However, he took over as the Vikings starter during the 1996 season and hit on 62.7% of his throws. The streak continued through two more seasons in Minnesota, then two years in Washington and now three with the Buccaneers.
Johnson has the three highest single-season completion rates in Tampa Bay history (also 60.8% in 2001). The only other quarterback to top 60% in the 25 years before Johnson's arrival was Steve DeBerg, who hit on 60.5% of his aerials in 1984.