Barber Shop Closed In Tampa Bay
By Dave Ford
Some players simply cannot be replaced. Many players are expendable and many move from team to team. And no matter the history of a franchise – good, bad or just average – players like Ronde Barber do not come along often.
Tampa Bay will enter the 2013 season without No. 20 starting in the secondary for the first time since 1998 – the first of 15 consecutive seasons in which he played all 16 regular season games. Barber was drafted in the third round by the Bucs in 1997 after starring alongside his twin brother, Tiki, at the University of Virginia. No one could ever have predicted the impact he would have on the Bucs’ future.
On Jan. 19, 2003, Barber etched his name not only in Tampa Bay history, but NFL postseason history when he picked off Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb and ran 92 yards untouched to secure the franchise’s first-ever NFC Championship. Up to that point, McNabb had led the Eagles on a late 72-yard drive – their longest of the contest. On the previous drive, Barber came off the right edge of the defensive line and forced a crucial fumble to foil one of many missed opportunities for the Eagles in the second half.
Barber’s interception return for a touchdown remains the longest in NFL playoff history, and will forever remain fresh in the minds of Bucs fans everywhere. This writer watched that game alone in an apartment that day and simultaneously flung his hat in the air and ran alongside Barber as he officially closed down Veteran’s Stadium on the way to Super Bowl XXXVII. As he celebrated with his teammates, Barber looked into the camera and said, “Pro Bowl my a--, I’m goin’ to San Diego!” It was a moment Tampa Bay and its fans had dreamed about for 26 years.
When it was all said and done, Ronde Barber was selected to the Pro Bowl five times, named All-Pro three times, scored 14 non-offensive touchdowns and retired after 16 years as the only player in NFL history with over 40 interceptions (47) and 20-plus sacks (28). Those are first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials without a doubt.