Safety Ronde Barber is still going strong for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The man who for years was known more for being the twin brother of New York Giants running back Tiki Barber is currently in his sixteenth NFL season. All of them have been spent with Tampa Bay. Not too many men have lasted this long in professional football, or stayed with the same team while doing it.
One of the reasons why Ronde Barber has been able to play for so long is his ability to make big plays. When one looks back at the history of the Buccaneers they will find him front and center whether it be a regular season game or playoff. Going into the 2012 season Barber had career totals of 43 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries, 27 sacks and seven touchdowns. In 2011 at the age of 36 he recorded 79 tackles, one sack and three interceptions.
Barber learned his trade under his first head coach Tony Dungy. Dungy came to Tampa Bay in 1996. Barber was drafted in 1997 as a cornerback out of the University of Virginia after a college career which saw him earn all Atlantic Coast Conference honors. The Buccaneers picked him in the third round.
The Tampa Bay job was Dungy’s first as a head coach after a career playing safety in the NFL and 15 years as an assistant. His specialty was defense which he learned under Pittsburgh Steelers hall of fame coach Chuck Noll. Having played the game, Dungy was able to teach Barber what it took to be successful as a defensive back and Ronde went from there.
In 2001 Barber made the Pro Bowl for the first time. He was one of the strongest links in a secondary that included hard hitting safety John Lynch. Up front the young Bucs boasted All-Pros in tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks. It was obvious that Dungy was building a solid unit.
In 2002, Tampa Bay put it all together. The defense gave up an average of 12.2 points per game. The Bucs won their first and only world’s championship. In the NFC championship game it was Barber’s fourth quarter interception of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb that sealed the deal. Barber returned it 92 yards for a touchdown and the Buccaneers headed to Super Bowl XXXVII.
These are the kind of plays that Barber has made since becoming a starter in 1998. Because of his play on the field and demeanor off of it, he has become a team leader and thought well enough by Tampa Bay to be worth keeping. The years may have taken away his speed and quickness, but Barber is still a productive safety and brings veteran leadership to the team.
How much longer he will play only Barber knows. One thing is for certain–he has had a wonderful career and will be missed by everyone in football when he decides to hang up his cleats. Barber has earned that much respect around the league.
Right now, the grand old man of the Buccaneers continues to perform.