TAMPA, Fla. (AP) â€” Sitting alone in an office at home one night last fall, Derrick Brooks says he came to the realization his NFL playing days were over.
Instead of shedding tears, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker smiled.
"At that time I had turned away a few teams that wanted my serivces," the 11-time Pro Bowl selection recalled Thursday. "For some reason or another the situations just didn't align to what I wanted."
The Bucs released arguably the best player in franchise history in February 2009, however Brooks wouldn't bring himself to utter the word "retirement" in public until this week.
The 37-year-old who played his entire career â€” high school, college and pro â€” in the state of of Florida officially called it quits in a video presentation posted on the web site derrickbrooks.tv.
He returned Thursday to One Buc Place for a send-off news conference attended by a handful of former teammates, including Mike Alstott and Ronde Barber, and much of a roster that's undergone a massive overhaul since Brooks last played in December 2008. Barber is the only player remaining from the 2002 squad that Brooks led to Tampa Bay's only Super Bowl title.
"Today is not about saying, 'OK Derrick realizes that he couldn't play, so he's retiring," Brooks said. "Opportunities came all year last year. Some you guys knew about, many you didn't. I just had a certain criteria that had to be met in order for me to play, and it never got to that."
Along with tackle Warren Sapp and safety John Lynch, Brooks was an integral part of a dominating defense that ranked among the league's best for more than a decade while helping transform the Bucs from a club that struggled through 12 consecutive seasons with at least 10 losses into a perennial playoff contender.
A first-round draft pick in 1995, Brooks began a run of 10 consecutive Pro Bowl selections in 1997 and was the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Off the field, his resume is even more impressive.
In addition to being involved in numerous business and charitable endeavors, Brooks serves on the Board of Trustees at his alma mater, Florida State. Three years ago, he opened the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, a joint venture with the family that built the San Francisco 49ers into Super Bowl champions.
Brooks stressed Thursday that football has never been the most important thing in his life.
"It's a very valuable part of my life, but yet it's not who I am," he said. "I wake up as a man first. That's how I measure my life."
The New Orleans Saints were one of the teams that had discussions with Brooks early last season, however the eventual Super Bowl champs did not sign him.
Brooks would not identify the other teams that expressed interest. Nor would he provide specifics about the "criteria" clubs had to meet to entice him into ending his career in another uniform.
"The coaching staff and I were on the same page, management wasn't," he said of the talks with New Orleans. "You treat it as it was, business. The business side didn't come together for me. I hold no regrets."
Nor do the Bucs, who are ecstatic he played his entire career with Tampa Bay.
"Those athletes that have played for one team are synonymous with the cities they've played in," team co-chairman Bryan Glazer said, citing Walter Payton, Cal Ripken Jr., and Mario Lemieux as examples. "We've been lucky to have him as our pride and joy since the day we first met."
Brooks laughed when asked if he might pull a Brett Favre and change his mind about retirement.
"When I say I've played my last days, my word's my word," he said. "I have."