On Wednesday, Derrick Brooks treated many of his students to their first horseback ride
On the Brooks' Bunch and Beyond 2003 tour, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and his charges have visited such educational institutions as Julliard, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Loyola University, Georgia Tech and Florida State. On Tuesday, the group made their final collegiate stop at the school that confers more degrees on African-American students than any other on a yearly basis: Florida A&M University, better known as FAMU.
FAMU is also the largest historically-black college, in terms of both area and enrollment, in the United States. The school has developed some of the nations top educational programs, holding nationally-ranked curricula in agriculture, architecture, business, education, engineering and pharmaceutical studies.
"It is a highly ranked school for African-Americans and you wouldn't think that it would be that highly ranked, compared to Harvard," said 14 year-old Darielle Palmer, one of the students on Brooks' 11-day journey through New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Tallahassee. "I like their pharmacy program, but I'm still deciding whether to be a pharmacist or a nurse. It's a really great school."
FAMU was named the college of the year by Time Magazine for the 1997-98 school year and is home to the first nursing program in the state of Florida. FAMU also boasts a Division I-A athletic program and a track and field team that has won numerous championships.
Following a campus tour, the students visited the FAMU bookstore and also made squeezed in a stop at the Florida State bookstore, which the they had missed the day before due to time constraints. Hats, t-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts and jerseys lined the counter as the students snapped up all the merchandise they could at the two stores.
After the shopping interlude, the Brooks' Bunch headed to JK Arabian stables for a day of outdoor fun and horseback riding.
Riding a horse was a foreign activity to most of the students, and a few were a bit apprehensive to give it a try. However, 26 of the 29 travelers eventually saddled up for a ride, and were glad they did.
The stables split Brooks' Bunch into three groups for their rides, and those waiting their turn amused themselves by playing checkers on a board featuring FSU and UF helmets, dealing cards, playing touch football and practicing their business skills with FSUopoly, a Florida State version of Monopoly. Other students took to braiding each other's hair, and that of their chaperones, reading the newspaper and relaxing with some music.
The horseback ride was a 30-minute tour of the surrounding woodlands, during which the students enjoyed the sights and sounds of a place far removed from the hustle and bustle of the trip's first nine days. It was an enjoyable break for everyone.
"I had never ridden a horse before," said Palmer. "I thought it was going to be different than it was, but it was really fun. It was real easy, kind of like riding a bike. It's something I'll definitely do again."
Some late showers forced the Brooks' Bunch to cancel its planned bonfire and barbeque at the stables. The barbeque was to be catered by Brooks' favorite Tallahassee restaurant, Po' Boys Creole Café, but instead of skipping the meal, Brooks and his students simply headed back to town to eat at the restaurant itself.
After dinner, a surprise waited for the crew in the person of former Seminole and current Baltimore Raven Corey Fuller. Fuller was the second former FSU star to meet with the students on Tuesday, as another current Raven, Peter Boulware, addressed the topics of dreams and responsibility during lunch.
Fuller chose to speak to the students about responsibility for their action, emphasizing that every decision is a conscious choice and one should think before he acts. Brooks' former college teammate also told the students they should be grateful for the opportunities they've encountered during their Brooks' Bunch activities, including their almost-finished 11-day sojourn.
"Derrick has been blessed in this life," said Fuller. "Now, he's blessing you. Value these experiences and learn as much as you can, so you can pass it on to the next generation."
Stay tuned for your final Brooks' Bunch installment on Thursday and a Brooks' Bunch outtakes section that includes all the trip's misadventures, later in the week.