Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Go West, Young Man

How will Derrick Brooks follow up his Brooks Bunch trip to Africa? Plans are well underway

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LB Derrick Brooks is looking West for his next trip with the Brooks Bunch

How will Derrick Brooks follow up his Brooks Bunch trip to Africa? Plans are well underway

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go no further across the country this season than their trip to Minneapolis this weekend. The team barely even crosses the Mississippi, barring a possible playoff trip in January.

Maybe that's why LB Derrick Brooks has a little westward wanderlust. More likely, he sees the Western United States as the perfect educational background to continue his remarkable series of Brooks' Bunch trips.

Brooks, the Buccaneers' Pro Bowl linebacker, has taken a group of local youngsters on an educational field trip each of the last four offseasons, beginning with a short journey to St. Petersburg in 1997. The following year, the qualifying members of Brooks Bunch set off for Atlanta, then Washington D.C. in 1999. Last year, Brooks received national attention when his group made an ambitious trip overseas to spend nearly two weeks in Africa.

That trip concluded in July. Because Brooks' program is educational in nature and of such magnitude, it takes months of planning to put each trip together. There is also a lengthy period of study for prospective trip-takers where a foundation is laid for the educational and emotional growth that will take place on each journey. For that reason, the preparations for Brooks' next trip are well underway.

Though it has not yet been announced, Brooks' has a new theme for this year's journey: The Wild, Wild West. The Brooks' Bunch is likely to head overseas to an international locale again the following year, but the 2001 trip will focus on America's roots.

The actual trip has not yet been mapped out because it will be based on the curriculum that is developed for the program. That process is also already underway, with a group of teachers hired to form the educational base of the program. It is thought, however, that the trip will include a visit to the Grand Canyon and to historic landmarks such as preserved gold mines.

The Wild, Wild West trip will be designed to focus on the early formation of the United States and the leaders that led that development.

"Derrick wanted to get back to our own roots, back to America," said Stephanie Waller, the Buccaneers' Director of Community Relations. "He wants the kids to understand how our country was built. Through that, we'll learn about Native Americans, settlers, African American leaders in the West…just basic Americans."

Brooks has an important reason for teaching the youth in his program about the people that shaped this country. His goal on each trip is to shape his own Brooks Bunch members into potential leaders. The travelers on Brooks' Africa 2000 trip said the experience changed their lives. Chances are, a trip to the West will do the same for another group of future leaders.

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