Few players are more synonymous with The Buccaneers than Ronde Barber; few plays are more recognizable than Barber running coast to coast to shut down the Vet.
How to encapsulate a great career? I could sit and write essays on his character and his work ethic. Describing his highlights and achievements would turn this article into an epic novel.
Hailing from Roanoke, Virginia Ronde is the older twin of his brother Tiki Barber. The Barber brothers would play football together through to the University of Virginia. This is where Ronde caught the eye of Buccaneers’ scouts. Attending the NFL combine Ronde Barber didn’t put up eye-catching stats at all, being undersized at 5’9″ and running a 4.68 40-yard dash.
Barber was selected in the 3rd round of the 1997 NFL draft by the Buccaneers, fortunately in an era where draft picks are given a chance to develop before being thrust into action. In that rookie season, Ronde Barber would record 4 tackles, appearing in just one game. Today’s fans, I must note, would be calling Barber a bust!
In 1998 Ronde would receive his chance, appearing in all 16 games and starting in 9. Recording 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles, Barber was showing glimpses of the playmaker he would be. This is where his interception streak started as number 20 would record an interception in every season for the next decade only missing a year in 2009.
1999 was the start of Ronde Barber being the established starter and the main man at CB for a Buccaneers defense that was being respected as one of the best the NFL had ever seen. Notable for 1999 was after week 11 (Barber did not start in week 10 against Kansas City) Ronde would go on a streak of starts totaling 224 consecutive starts (including playoffs) that would not end until retirement in 2012.
During those first three years, Ronde didn’t look like a star, didn’t look like a player that would hold or share many Team and NFL records. He looked like a solid if not great CB. From 2000 to 2012 Barber would repay the faith and patience shown by the organization.
In 2000 Barber would post a sack number many defensive ends would be proud of at 5.5 and recorded his first pick 6, against former Buccaneers QB Vinny Testaverde in addition to starting all 16 games for the first time in his career.
2001 saw 20 cement his reputation as a fan favorite and received national recognition, attending his first Pro Bowl. But it was 2002 that confirmed Barber as a team legend, intercepting Eagles QB Donovan McNabb in the NFC championship game and running nearly the full length of the field to confirm Tampa Bay’s place in Super Bowl XXXVII. Those that witnessed the play will attest to the silence that fell over the crowd at the Vet.
Video Courtesy of BucPower
Barber would continue starting all 16 games a year until his retirement in 2012. As Father Time caught up with Ronde, he would change positions to account for losing a step of pace, using his knowledge of football and instincts to be in the right place at the right time. Ronde Barber wasn’t ever a player carried by his reputation, constantly contributing to the team. Recording a stat in every category a non-offensive player can make, Barber eventually retired from football with nothing left to achieve.
When Ronde Barber eventually hung up his cleats, he did so as one of the greatest to play the game.
Barber still holds the NFL record as the only player to record more than 25 sacks and more than 45 interceptions over his career, as well as team records including;
- Most interceptions in a single season: 10 (2001)
- Most interceptions in a career: 47
- 2nd-most fumble recoveries in a career: 12
- Most non-offensive touchdowns in a career: 14
- Most starts in a career (any position): 232 (1997–2012)
- Most games played in a career (any position): 241 (1997–2012)
- Most sacks by a defensive back in a career: 28
- Most interceptions in a game: 3 (tied)
This will be the sixth-time Ronde Barber has been a semi-finalist for the Hall of Fame and that is a crying shame as he should already have his bronze in Canton.