(PNJ.com) - In his own special way, Derrick Brooks has prepared for this unforgettable moment.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame awaits. He's expected to be selected Saturday night.
"Whatever I feel at the time, I just want it to be raw emotion," said Brooks, who is in New York for the announcement. "I just want the moment to be the moment and pray that, God's will, it will be this year."
In his first year of eligibility, this figures to be his time.
Brooks, 40, a Washington High graduate who attained fame at every level of his football career, is one of the 15 finalists, along with two senior candidates, for the Hall of Fame. The Class of 2014 will be announced Saturday night on Fox.
Brooks, who played all 14 of his NFL seasons as outside linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is on every projection list to be one of the selections. Four to seven players will be selected.
"If Derrick Brooks doesn't get in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, something's wrong with the process," Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk told the Tampa Tribune. "It's a no-brainer. Derrick Brooks was the total package. ... He had everything."
Brooks said he has tried to let the selection process, which started a year ago, run its course.
"I have tried to take it day by day and keep it all in perspective, but you can't help but think about it," said Brooks, a two-time All-American at Florida State who helped lead the Seminoles to their first national championship in 1993. "And yet the closer I get, the more nervous I know I will be."
The wait is nearly over.
The Hall of Fame selections occur on the eve of Sunday's Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, located 13 miles from Manhattan in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Super Bowl became one of the career-defining moments for Brooks. On Jan. 26, 2003, Brooks helped Tampa Bay finish its only championship season with a 48-21 victory against the Oakland Raiders in Super XXXVII at San Diego. His 44-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the game.
John Lynch, a perennial Pro Bowl safety with the Bucs, was one of Brooks' closest teammates. Lynch and former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy, who built the team before leaving for the Indianapolis Colts prior to the Super Bowl season, are among the Hall of Fame finalists.
"That just makes it all the more special," Brooks said. "Just being in this class here with Coach Dungy and John going this far, that is an accomplishment in itself. Now it is out of our hands. We have written our resume.
"And what ever happens at this point in time, it will be special."
A 46-member selection committee of media representatives will vote Saturday. A player must receive at least 80 percent of the vote. Also on the ballot is former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, who joined with Brooks as co-founders of the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, a charter school in Tampa that opened in 2007.
Other finalists include former New Orleans Saints star placekicker Morten Andersen, Colts receiver Marvin Harrison and Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Walter Jones, an Aliceville, Ala., native who was a freshman at Florida State in Brooks' senior season.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Aug. 2 in Canton, Ohio. If Brooks is chosen, he will join Pensacola native Emmitt Smith, an Escambia High graduate, who was enshrined in 2010. Smith, who became an All-American tailback for the Florida Gators, helped the Dallas Cowboys to a trio of Super Bowl titles and remains the NFL's all-time leading rusher.
Warren Sapp, another of Brooks' former teammates with the Bucs, was inducted last year as a defensive lineman.
Brooks attended Sapp's induction ceremony. It was his first visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"With myself and my personality, I just try to take it in stride and be as humble as possible," Brooks said. "I know I am going to be nervous (Saturday)."
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