Brooks attended Washington High School in Pensacola. In his senior season in 1991, Brooks carried Pensacola to the state playoff semifinals, where they lost to the eventual champion Manatee Hurricanes of Bradenton, FL. In 2007, he was named to the Florida High School Association All-Century Team, which selected the Top 33 players in the 100 year history of high school football in the state of Florida's history.
In the 1995 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded their second-round picks, in exchange for the Dallas Cowboys first round draft choice (28th overall), which the team used to select Brooks. Brooks played 14 years for the Buccaneers and is widely considered one of the best (if not the best) players in franchise history and one of the best linebackers in NFL history. From 1995 to 2008, Brooks started 221 of 224 games, recording 1,698 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 25 interceptions, and six touchdowns (tied for the most in NFL history by a linebacker with Bobby Bell). He was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times, including 10 straight from 1997 to 2006, was an All-Pro nine times, was the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, and led the team to the franchise's first Super Bowl win in Super Bowl XXXVII.
As a rookie in 1995, Brooks started 13 of 16 games. He finished the season with 78 tackles with a sack and earned first team all-rookie honors from Pro Football Weekly and Pro Football Writers Association. During his second season 1996, he started all 16 games and finished with a team leading 132 tackles and his first career interception. In 1997, Brooks earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after recording 144 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two interceptions in 16 games. In 1998, Brooks had another Pro Bowl season after recording 156 tackles and an interception.
In 1999, Brooks made the Pro Bowl for the third time and was a first team All-Pro selection for the first time in his career. For the season he had 153 tackles, two sacks, and four interceptions. In 2000, Brooks earned his fourth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl and his second consecutive first team All-Pro selection. He finished the season with 140 tackles, a sack, and had his first career touchdown on a 34 yard interception from Minnesota VikingsquarterbackDaunte Culpepper. Brooks was also, along with Jim Flanigan of the Chicago Bears, the winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, given to a National Football League player for his community service activities as well as his excellence on the field. Brooks made his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl in 2001 after recording 112 tackles and three interceptions.
Continued success and Superbowl victory (2002–2008)
Brooks' best season came in 2002. During that year he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press and helped the Buccaneers win the franchise's first Super Bowl. He also made his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl and was a first team All-Pro selection for the third time. For the season he had 117 tackles, a sack, five interceptions, and returned a NFL record, for a linebacker, four touchdowns (one off a fumble and three off interceptions). During the Buccaneers 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, he returned an interception off of Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon 44 yards for a touchdown. He thus became one of only six players in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl, be named Defensive Player of the Year and win a Super Bowl or NFL title. The others are Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis, Reggie White and his teammate for nine years, Warren Sapp.
In 2003, Brooks broke Lee Roy Selmon's team record for most consecutive Pro Bowl appearances with seven. He finished the season with 101 tackles, a sack, two interceptions, and returned an interception for a touchdown. In 2004, Brooks made his eighth consecutive Pro Bowl and fifth first team All-Pro selection after recording 137 tackles, three sacks, and an interception. In 2005, Brooks made his ninth consecutive Pro Bowl and earned his sixth first team All-Pro selection. He finished the season with 125 tackles, three sacks, and an interception.
In Brooks' 10th consecutive Pro Bowl in 2006, he was named the MVP after returning a Trent Green interception 59 yards for a touchdown to secure the victory for the NFC. During the regular season he had 121 tackles, three interceptions and a touchdown. In 2007, Brooks had 109 tackles and was not voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1996. In Brooks last year with the Buccaneers in 2008, he recorded 73 tackles and an interception and was selected to his 11th Pro Bowl. The 11 Pro Bowls are tied for second most by a linebacker in NFL history.
After spending all of the 2009 season as a free agent, Brooks officially announced his retirement on August 11, 2010.
On January 10th, 2014, Brooks was named among the 15 modern-era Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists. He was joined by other former Buccaneers, as safety John Lynch (who was Brooks' teammate from 1995 to 2004) and head coach Tony Dungy (who coached Brooks from 1996 to 2001) were also finalists. On February 1, Brooks was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He is the third Hall of Famer to have earned his credentials primarily as a Buc, the others being Lee Roy Selmon and Warren Sapp (Brooks' teammate from 1995 to 2003).
Derrick Brooks is the founder of the Brooks Bunch charity and youth scholarship foundation in the Tampa Bay area. He has taken local youngsters across the nation and South Africa with the objective of presenting a first hand experience, or a "mobile classroom." Brooks also headed the founding of the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa.