The common threads are so obvious, once one hears them, it’s surprising the comparison doesn’t come up more.
Of course South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore would look up to a linebacker who was an NFL star with a flair for pass coverage. Even if there’s a bit of a generational gap.
“He was before my time, but my grandfather put me on Derrick Brooks,” Moore said. “That’s why I wear No. 10 because he wore No. 10 at FSU. That’s a guy that my grandad put me on to.”
But Moore never watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers star live.
“Highlights,” Moore said. “Too young for that.”
Brooks’ last NFL game came in 2008, Moore’s eighth-grade season, and even that was three years after his final All-Pro season. But his legend cast a long shadow.
Brooks went to Florida State as a safety and left as a two-time consensus All-American linebacker. Starting in 1995, he started 221 games across 14 seasons, picking off 25 passes, breaking up 112, forcing 24 fumbles and winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002.
He anchored Tampa’s Super Bowl-winning defense and became inexorably linked to the Tampa-2 defense Tony Dungy popularized.
In that defense, he covered ground and played zone coverage as well as anyone, while possessing the ability to help control running games at 6-foot, 235 pounds.
Moore is a little taller at 6-foot-2, more slender at a listed 218 pounds (though Brooks was only about 225 when he left college). Moore’s got 11 career interceptions and a knack for dropping back in coverage to make plays. Both are Floridians, granted from opposite sides of the state (Brooks from Pensacola and Moore from South Florida).
Those things in mind, it makes sense why the Gamecocks star returning from injury looks up to this individual among the best to play the position.
“He gets the ball off people,” Moore said. “He got a lot of interceptions, hard hitter. He was never a big dude. He was always considered undersized but was definitely a Hall of Fame linebacker.”