Vikings' Barr hopes to follow in Hall of Famer Brooks’ footsteps

MINNEAPOLIS -- Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr grew up in Los Angeles without a hometown NFL team to root for, but he had a player he followed.Barr cheered for Derrick Brooks, a hall of fame linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1995-2006....

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Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr leaps to make a tackle on Oakland Raiders tight end Lee Smith in a win Nov. 15 at Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. (Photo by Cary Edmondson / USA TODAY Sports)

MINNEAPOLIS - Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr grew up in Los Angeles without a hometown NFL team to root for, but he had a player he followed.
Barr cheered for Derrick Brooks, a hall of fame linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1995-2006. So when it came time for Barr to choose a uniform number last year before his rookie season, it was an easy decision.
“Derrick Brooks was one of my favorite players, and he’s the reason I chose No. 55,” Barr said. “I just appreciate what he did for football and for his team. He’s a hall of fame player and a guy that I admire.”
Barr and Brooks were clients of JABEZ Marketing Group before Barr left late last year. So Barr has chatted a few times with Brooks and was thrilled to get a text from him in October 2014 after Barr returned a fumble in overtime for the winning touchdown in a game at Tampa Bay.
Barr never has told Brooks he chose No. 55 because of him. Brooks found out when informed this week by a reporter.
“I did not know that at all,” Brooks said in a phone interview. “I’m actually very humbled by that. Whenever a young man says that I affected their life and made a positive impact on it, it is with a great deal of humility that I’m hearing that.”
Barr said conversations he has had with Brooks have been brief, and it would have been awkward telling him why he wears No. 55.
“Bringing something up like that, how do you do that?” Barr said.
Barr was a running back his first two years at UCLA and wore No. 11. When he moved to linebacker as a junior, he held onto that number.
When he was taken with the No. 9 pick in the 2014 draft, the Vikings gave him a list of available numbers. He wasted no time in claiming No. 55.
“He made that Tampa 2 defense,” Barr said of Brooks. “What I most appreciated about him was he was able to make plays that weren’t his plays while still being able to do his job and stay in his coverage.
“Eventually, I want to be able to cheat a little here and there like he did and still be able to protect myself. That comes with experience.”
Brooks, 42, is now co-owner and president of the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena League and an NFL appeals officer. Although he didn’t want to offer any similarities Barr has to his game, Brooks lauded the play of the second-year player.
“He plays with a high motor, and you can definitely see his athleticism,” Brooks said. “He works hard, and I think in the scheme (the Vikings are) playing, you can see it allows his skill set to make that defense better. I’m a fan of the things he’s doing, and the Vikings are having success.”
Pro Football Focus ranks Barr as the NFL’s top outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. Despite a hand injury that has limited him the past three games, he has made great strides this season.
Brooks saw Barr play in person for the only time last year at Tampa Bay. In overtime, Barr stripped the ball from Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and scooped it up for a 27-yard touchdown return.
“He had a pretty good game, and I was impressed,” Brooks said. “So I wanted to share that with him (by text).”
Barr said Brooks wrote he was considering attending a late-season Minnesota road game and wanted to meet Barr. However, Barr missed the final four games because of a knee injury and didn’t travel, so the two never got together.
Brooks hopes a meeting will take place soon. You better believe the feeling is mutual.
“That would be awesome,” Barr said. “It would be a big deal to meet him. I would be a fan, but I would try to keep my composure. I would definitely ask him a lot of questions.”
Brooks, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014, won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers after the 2002 season and made 11 Pro Bowls. Barr is in line to earn his first Pro Bowl berth this season.
“That’d be sweet,” Barr said. “That’s always a goal of mine and a dream of mine to play in the Pro Bowl.”
Brooks figures something else also will come out of Barr’s NFL career.
“Hopefully, one day there will young guys out who will want to wear No. 55 because of Anthony Barr,” Brooks said.

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