- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. – No former Dallas Cowboys will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, but the coaching staff has a couple of close connections to men who are being honored in Canton, Ohio.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli spent a decade on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff during linebacker Derrick Brooks’ career. Head coach Jason Garrett was Brooks’ teammate for parts of the 2004 season and spent the previous four years playing with defensive end Michael Strahan with the New York Giants.
“When you walk into a meeting and you walk out on a practice field and certainly come game day, those guys separate themselves,” Garrett said. “They’re different, and they’re different physically, but they’re also different in their production, their leadership, their impact on their team, their influence on their team. When I went to New York, ‘Stra’ was fantastic. He embraced me. We spent a lot of time together, obviously at the facility, but then away from the facility, and he’s got this amazing way about him, he’s got an infectious personality. He’s very welcoming. When he walks into a room, he lights it up. I really, really appreciate our friendship and the time we spent together. He made my time in New York significantly better.
“With Derrick Brooks, a little bit of a different personality, but wow, what a player. I can remember my first rep in Tampa was in some kind of an OTA and I was throwing a slant in the flat and my eyes went over here and for some reason he was playing over here and somehow he got to a ball that was way over here and I literally turned around and said, ‘What the hell was that coverage?’ And it was him. It was him reading my eyes just being all over the field and just being who he is. If you watch that team play, he stands out, and there are a lot of great, great football players on those Tampa Bay Buccaneer defenses, and he just, he was the bell cow. He and [Warren] Sapp were the leaders, and they were just fantastic and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”
Marinelli, the defensive line coach during his Tampa Bay tenure, looks at Brooks as the prototype for the Will linebacker position.
“Speed, right off the bat,” Marinelli said. “Explosiveness. Great awareness. Great team player. He was a great captain. I mean, he was a great captain. And in big games, he got big. That was the best compliment I could give those guys. Big games, he got big and he played big. He’s special. Talk about a relentless motor. He was constantly sprinting to the football. Relentless and a positive influence on everybody in the building. He’s a world champion, that’s what he is.”
4hEric D. Williams