This Sunday is Ronde Barber day at Raymond James Stadium. For 16 years the defensive back embodied all that is great about football and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This day is one to rejoice.
Ronde and Tiki Barber were in a hurry to get out into the world and start making their mark. Going into labor at six months, doctors would give Geraldine Barber medications to postpone the birth. Born five weeks premature, Geraldine Barber had to wait three days to hold her sons who had been hooked up to tubes and in an incubator. A friend and cultural exchange student from Africa would help name the boys. Ronde’s full name is Jamael Oronde (first born son) and Tiki’s name is Atiim Kiambu (fiery-tempered King).
When the boys were growing up their mom Geraldine would work two, sometimes three jobs to provide for the boys. Their first game playing for the University of Virginia would see Geraldine sitting in Scott stadium to see her boys play just five days after a double mastectomy. She said she drew inspiration to fight cancer from her boys. That feeling was no doubt reciprocated in the strength, character, and integrity with which Ronde and Tiki have always presented themselves.
Defensive help wanted
By 1997 the Buccaneers were going into their second year with Tony Dungy leading the troops. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebackers Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson had started to fully implement the Dungy style of aggressive defense. John Lynch and Mike Alstott would also be among the Buccaneers that would say bye that season to the original Buccaneer uniforms and Bucco Bruce and welcome the color and logo of the new uniforms.
Also new in 1997 was a 22 year old defensive back selected in the 3rd round of the draft. With Tiki selected in the 2nd round by the New York Giants, this would be the first time the boys hadn’t played on the same football team in their lives. Their Mom, Geraldine has always requested they play together but the NFL had other plans.
A legacy is born
Over sixteen years Barber would develop into one of the most consistent legendary leaders Tampa Bay has ever had. Starting only one game his rookie season, then nine in 1998. Three at left cornerback and six at right cornerback.
Barber would continue becoming an important cog in the wheel that made Tampa Bay’s defense the stuff of legend over the next couple of years. This would culminate with what Rick Stroud Of the Tampa Bay Times would define as the greatest scoring play in Buccaneer history. The pick six, 92 yard touchdown return of Donovan McNabb in the 2002 NFC Championship game that would silence the Eagles faithful and send the Bucs to Super Bowl 37.
Hall Of Fame Player/person
The numbers just don’t lie. Spending his entire 16 year career in Tampa Bay and starting 215 consecutive games from 1999 to 2012. Ronde made five pro bowls, was first team all pro three times and helped hold down the back end of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history.
His 47 interceptions (most in team history), 13 non-offensive touchdowns, and 28 sacks(most ever by a defensive back). Ronde is the only player in NFL history with 45+ sacks and 25+ interceptions.
The 2001 NFL interceptions leader as well as a member of the NFL all 2000’s team. The best to ever play the position in Tampa Bay. This weekend Barber receives the greatest honor the Buccaneer organization can bestow a former team member.
The weather will be too warm in Raymond James this weekend for a jacket. But Buccaneer fans know #20 should be getting a jacket someday soon and that jacket should be gold.
As much an upstanding citizen as he was a legendary player, Tampa Bay fans say thank you, Ronde Barber. You’re one of the best to ever wear the colors.
Photo credit: buccaneers.com
Video credit: nfl.com