I CAME TO THIS ROLE WITH VINIK SPORTS GROUP THROUGH ARENA FOOTBALL. When Mr. Vinik purchased the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2010, he also purchased the Tampa Bay Storm. I came here as the president of the Storm, running the football operations while Steve Yzerman was running the hockey operations.
When I took the role, I started to expand in business leadership, not only running the arena team but also being involved with the Tampa Bay Lightning when it came to selling our team to the community — the strategies behind how the Lightning and Mr. Vinik got involved in our community.
I was blessed to be behind the scenes bringing that story, under the leadership of [then-Lightning CEO] Tod Leiweke, to the Tampa Bay community. Yes, it was a little different at first because my space and place had always been in the area of football. But being around the Lightning allowed me to not only get involved with hockey but also to get involved with the business of our community.
One unique thing that happened in 2020 was, with the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup, I get the chance to have a Stanley Cup ring as well as a Super Bowl ring. I don’t know if anyone else has that, but I’m kind of wearing that cap for myself for a little while. [Editor’s note: It does appear that Brooks is the only individual to have both a Super Bowl and Stanley Cup ring.]
PLANNING A SUPER BOWL IS, HANDS-DOWN, HARDER THAN PLAYING IN A SUPER BOWL [laughs]. When you’re playing, you’re focused in on one opponent. You know their strategies. You know what you’re doing. But when you’re planning a Super Bowl, the game plan changes a lot more.
Sometimes you don’t have any control over the outcome. When you’re playing in a Super Bowl, you physically have a piece of the outcome.
To me, the planning part, as challenging as it’s been, it’s been fun. I’ve been able to discover things about me and my leadership that I never knew I had the capabilities to do — whether it’s forecasting situations, whether it’s being light on your feet and adjusting the plans, whether it’s recruiting financial partners, or even the selection of volunteers. Business-to-business connections, peers-to-peers, this has allowed me to stretch every one of my people talents.
I always joke with Rob [Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission and president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee] that if I had known all the things [this would entail] beforehand, I probably would have told him no. But in all honesty, I am very humbled that he reached out to me and asked me to be a part of it.
MY MOTHER WAS GERALDINE BROOKS MITCHELL, AND MY STEPFATHER WAS ARTHUR JAMES MITCHELL, BETTER KNOWN AS AJ MITCHELL. My parents were very hardworking and always stressed education over athletics. My mom was an athlete in high school. She was a really good basketball player. She became pregnant with me during her senior year, so she was not able to receive a basketball scholarship and go to college.
I believe my athleticism really came from my mom. I would say the best thing about my parents was that they always kept me humble. My stepfather only had a sixth-grade education, but he knew how important education was.
I’m always telling the story of how he whipped me in front of my fifth-grade class for being a class clown [laughs]. Then I got a whipping a few hours later from my mom because I ran home from school and [away from] my father. But that was probably the best lesson, to be honest with you. I thank God that they loved me enough to do that.
MY PARENTS ALWAYS LEFT A LASTING MEMORY WITH TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS FANS. To my understanding, and I can’t bear witness to this because I was playing, but they were better well known for the tailgate parties they used to hold before the game. Years and years later, I still run into people who tell me how much fun they had with my parents at Buccaneers games. Now, what they did, and the stories my family tells me… I say, that’s not my mom. That’s not my dad [laughs]. But they really were very fun people, and I thank God they stressed those life lessons to me.
I ALWAYS APPRECIATED ALL MY TEACHERS, BUT THE FIRST ONE [WHO LEFT AN IMPACT ON ME] WAS MARIA YOUNG. She was the principal of my elementary school. She always used to tell the other teachers, “Derrick is a really smart kid, and he’s not a disruptive kid.” I would do my work, and I would get bored. She was one of the first to recognize that. She just always reminded me of how smart I was. I was too young to appreciate that, but she was always one of the people I remember recognized my academic talent.
ONE UNEXPECTED LESSON THAT MY KIDS HAVE TAUGHT ME IS THAT THEY CHALLENGE ME TO HAVE MORE FUN IN MY LIFE. They really appreciate how driven I am, but at the same time they always tell me I need to relax. I need to slow down. I need to enjoy myself and have fun.
THE MOST SURPRISING THING THEY’VE GOTTEN ME TO DO IS TIKTOK. My daughters, a few months ago, roped me into some TikTok [videos]. The ones they decided to post were some dance routines they wanted me to participate in. The more I participated, the more I saw my role decrease. I had a big role, and then I had a smaller role because I kept messing up. They said, OK, you just do this small piece [laughs].
ONE THING I ALWAYS TELL YOUNG NFL PLAYERS IS TO PAY YOUR OWN BILLS. I tell every athlete that’s earning income through the world of sport to sit down and pay your own bills. You’ve earned the right. God has blessed you with the ability to have a tremendous earning power in a short period of time. You owe it to yourself to see what’s coming out of your finances. Don’t depend on anyone else to pay your bills when you’re going to have to do it yourself at some point.
IF I WERE TO SELL THE TAMPA BAY AREA TO SOMEONE SKEPTICAL ABOUT THE REGION IN 30 SECONDS, I WOULD SAY YOU NEED TO CALL ROB HIGGINS [LAUGHS]. I would simply sell them on our people and our community. We are so blessed to have the supporters that we have in all facets of life that believe in something that’s good for our Bay area. It’s not just the city of Tampa. It’s all of it. That’s why I use the phrase “Bay area.” We come together and show the potential of us being major players for major events. From a hospitality standpoint, a business standpoint, a community standpoint, safety and wellness standpoint, I think we check all the boxes someone would be looking for when they want to come and have a customized experience in Tampa Bay. Finally, I put the cherry on top by telling them how great the weather is.
I THINK ONE THING ABOUT PLANNING THIS SUPER BOWL PEOPLE MAY NOT REALIZE IS HOW SUPPORTIVE OUR BUSINESS COMMUNITY HAS BEEN. All of our Championship-level partners have stuck with us and not wavered in their support during this pandemic. Even though I’m sure they’ve had to make tough decisions in their own businesses, their commitment to us in bringing this Super Bowl to Tampa is unwavering. I believe the NFL have been so shocked and surprised, not just from the financial support from our Championship-level partners, but the community support and the thought and planning and how far ahead we’ve been in a lot of business and community areas that other cities have not been. Whether it’s our Forever 55 community programs, to our Business Connect programs, whether it’s our fundraising efforts, whether it’s our fundraising efforts, we have done our best to be out front of a lot of things. I believe that we’ve impressed and maybe even won over our NFL partners in that regard. I think some of things people maybe don’t think about during the pandemic is the coordination, the traffic of people, and getting the right partners in place. It’s not just from a financial standpoint. It’s really from a model of service. A lot of people still want to serve, despite the fears that are still out there with our pandemic, they still want to be out there in a safe, healthy environment and are willing to help us out in any way they can.
MY BUCKET LIST ITEM IS PLAYING THE TOP 25 GOLF COURSES IN THE WORLD. There are four of them in Europe that I hope to go play one day. I’m not going to say which ones because I don’t want to jinx myself.
THE WEIRDEST PLACE I’VE EVER BEEN RECOGNIZED IS THE RESTROOM. Some people can’t wait til you’re done [laughs]. I’ve been interrupted in the men’s restroom. I’m like, hey, could you wait? That’s been the weirdest interaction. You’ve got to tell them to wait.
AS A PLAYER, I ALWAYS ENJOYED THE ENVIRONMENT OF GREEN BAY. It’s the NFL city that reminded me most of a college city. The toughest place to play during my career was always Minnesota because it’s just so loud in their dome. I think they used to pipe in noise [laughs]. Third on my list would probably be Oakland. I would just hope we made it to the game. Their fans [would be] throwing things at the buses. I didn’t think it was true until it happened. Oakland fans, especially pregame, they can get a little bit beside themselves. The only city I’ve never played in was Buffalo. The way that the schedules rotated, the Bills always came here to play.
MY GUILTY PLEASURE IS HAAGEN-DAZS BUTTER PECAN ICE CREAM. It’s something my wife is always on the lookout for because I try to sneak it in.
I’VE BEEN SURPRISED HOW MUCH I ENJOY COACHING MY DAUGHTER’S SOFTBALL TEAM. I did it thinking I would just sort of help the coach out. Then I got into it. I took online classes about how to coach and talk to little girls. I talked to some male softball coaches and asked them how to coach young ladies. It’s allowed me to spend a lot more time with my youngest daughter that I didn’t necessarily get to spend with my oldest daughter because I was playing. It allows me to spend time with her in her space. I’m used to coaching and being around young men, but this has allowed me to help build up young ladies, and it’s something I really enjoy. They’re called the Tampa Mustangs. I have to give them a shoutout. IF
I WAS TO BUILD MY PERFECT DAY, I WOULD WAKE UP THANKING GOD. I would start the day by sitting down and having breakfast with my family. I would have a round of golf set up very soon after that — probably 36 holes. A perfect day would have my wife cooking one of my favorite meals at the end of the day. If the day extended itself, I would end it with some kind of church service or some kind of environment where I could express my faith. That would simply be it. It would not be anything extravagant. Just real low-key and humble, doing the one thing I love to do — play golf. You’ll notice my perfect day doesn’t involve my phone. I don’t need my phone [laughs].
THE BIGGEST HONOR IN MY LIFE IS THAT GOD HAS BLESSED ME TO BE A FATHER AND A HUSBAND. My wife, Carol, I’ve known her since we grew up together — since we were 10 years old. I had the opportunity to have four beautiful kids — my daughters, Brianna and DeNia, and my sons, DeCalon and Darius. To have had the responsibility to leave something in them that my parents in left in me and bring a lot of legacy to our family, whether it was being the first to graduate from college, and now having my oldest two kids, Brianna and my son Dekalyn, graduate from college and set the stage for their younger siblings who are going into college. In every role I’ve played, it’s always been the attitude of being the servant leader. That’s how I would really look at my life. If I had to pick two words [to describe me], that’s what they would be: “servant leader.” I always lead by looking to serve others and make everything better because God blessed me to be a part of it and doing it with a humble spirit.