In front of a packed ballroom at Higgins Hall on Friday night, the Sports Club of Tampa Bay recognized quarterback Jeff Garcia and linebacker Derrick Brooks for their contributions on and off the field in 2007.
The club's 47th annual awards banquet named Garcia the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Most Valuable Player in 2007, while Brooks was given the Outstanding Citizen Award.
The event, which was broadcast live on a local cable station, honored numerous professional and amateur athletes from the Tampa Bay area for excelling on the field as well as in the community. Tickets sold for the dinner, a raffle, and a silent auction all helped raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club and youth sports in the area.
First up for the Bucs was Garcia, who led the team to a 9-7 record and an NFC South championship only a year after the team had struggled to a 4-12 finish. He completed 63.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,440 yards and 13 touchdowns, with only four interceptions. After Packers quarterback Brett Favre pulled out of the game, Garcia was named to his fourth Pro Bowl, becoming only the third Buccaneers quarterback to earn an All Star selection.
Garcia was unable to accept the award in person, but it was for a reason that fit in with the spirit of the event – he was in California working hard for the Garcia Pass It On Foundation.
In a taped message, Garcia said he was grateful for the honor.
"I'd like to thank the Sports Club of Tampa Bay for recognizing me as the recipient of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers MVP award," Garcia said. "I can't stand up here alone and not thank my teammates for allowing me to be in a position to do positive things on the football field through this year. This is not just an individual award; this is definitely a team award, so I'd like to thank my teammates for that."
Garcia went on to mention his plans to bring his foundation to the Tampa Bay area and extend the positive impact it has already had in his home state of California.
"I'm sorry that I couldn't be there tonight," Garcia said. "I'm currently in California raising funds and awareness for the Garcia Pass It On Foundation. I hope to bring that foundation here to the community of Tampa Bay and be so involved and help the charities and some of the organizations that could utilize our help."
Continuing the theme of Buccaneers taking pride in helping their community, Brooks was recognized as the Citizen of the Year, an award the club says is "given to the citizen who has most contributed to the growth and development of the community's sports environment."
Through his foundation, Derrick Brooks Charities Inc., Brooks is active in programs such as a Thanksgiving dinner distribution, a holiday party for underprivileged youths, and the recently established Brooks/Debartolo Charter School.
In addition, his Brooks Bunch program assists members of three local Boys and Girls Clubs with classroom involvement and behavioral and grade assessments that lead up to trips around the country and even the world.
Brooks was also unable to accept his award in person, but said in another taped message that it was a great feeling to be recognized for his work in the community.
"I want to first apologize for not being able to receive this award [in person], but I am truly honored to receive the Citizen of the Year Award from the Sports Club of Tampa Bay," Brooks said. "I thank the elected committee for recognizing the efforts of myself as well as Derrick Brooks Charities for the work that we do to affect the lives of people in the Tampa Bay area.
"It's always nice to be recognized and get awards for community service as well as being a good person. I receive this award most humbly. God bless you."
Rock Riley of Catch 47, the emcee of the event, lauded Brooks for his dedication to the Bay area.
"He is one of the most community-minded Buccaneers ever," Riley said. "Derrick Brooks is a true gentleman and a future Hall of Famer, on and off the field."
In addition to the two Buccaneers recognized at the awards banquet, the Sports Club of Tampa Bay also named Carlos Pena and Vincent Lecavalier as the 2007 MVPs of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively, as well as honoring numerous outstanding male and female amateur athletes for both athletic and community service achievements.
The club also inducted four new members into its Hall of Fame – former Lightning star Dave Andreychuk, former tennis great Jim Courier, the late youth basketball coaching great Freddie Lee Dyles, and former New York Yankees star Tino Martinez.
In all, it was a special evening as the two Buccaneers stars joined other Tampa Bay area professional and amateur athletes to celebrate each other's successes not only on the field but in the community.