TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will induct cornerback Ronde Barber into the team's Ring of Honor during halftime Sunday, joining the likes of Lee Roy Selmon, Derrick Brooks and Doug Williams in having his name etched inside Raymond James Stadium. Barber played for the Bucs for 16 seasons (1997-2012) and has the most interceptions (47), passes defensed (197) and defensive touchdowns (eight) in team history.
Here's a collection of stories from the people who know him best -- including a tale from Barber himself.
'He's got some really ugly pictures of me with bad hair'
Ronde and his twin brother, Tiki, had a famous babysitter: none other than Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who was a roommate of Barber's father, James, while at Virginia Tech. Arians and his wife Christine were best friends with Tiki and Ronde's mother, Geraldine. It was Arians' first experience with young children.
Bruce Arians: "I'm the cool uncle you'd like to have a drink with, not a father figure. They lived right down the street -- not even a street, just over the hill. [James and I] bought condominiums right next to each other. We were roommates [in] college, so [we were] very close. ... We always babysat Ronde because Tiki was always in the hospital. He always had convulsions, so we had Ronde just bouncing around and playing. He's got some really ugly pictures of me with some bad hair.
"They bounced around pretty good, and they bounced on each other pretty good. They were probably 2, 2½, maybe 3 when we split apart. ... [I] followed them throughout their entire careers. It was so fun watching them grow, becoming the men that they are. … I couldn't be more proud of both of them, but for [Ronde] to get into the Ring of Honor -- that's huge -- and I think the gold jacket shouldn't be far off."
'It's almost like Ronde needed setbacks'
Tiki Barber: "So Ronde's always been a later starter than me, but he always surpasses me. And this goes back to college, even high school. But in college our freshman year, I was pushing for time ... and so was he in our spring camp, and I think this was our spring game -- Ronde tried to dip around an offensive tackle to make a play on a screen pass and the tackle fell on his arm. It compound-dislocated his arm. The bone popped out. If you look at his elbow, he has an enormous scar on his elbow. It was disgusting. He turned out to be OK but, obviously that season, he was redshirted.
"That offseason, he worked his ass off and before you knew it, he was the starting corner his redshirt freshman season and he led the nation in interceptions. It's almost like Ronde need[ed] setbacks in order to over-exceed even the highest expectations. You get a setback, put a ceiling on him and he'd double it. That [was] kind of his whole career and that's what he did with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ... It's been his M.O. his entire life really -- being stuck in a disadvantaged situation and then finding a way to excel higher than anyone thought he could go.
"Failure wasn't an option. My mom always told us, 'If you never stop trying, you're never gonna fail.' That's who we are. But he took it to a level that is even greater than I could have imagined."
'He had to learn how to be a pro'
Long before Ronde earned a reputation as one of the league's consummate professionals, former position coach Herm Edwards thought he was a cocky rookie and benched him for a full year until he learned how to be a professional.
Former Bucs defensive backs coach Herm Edwards: "He was one of those guys coming out of Virginia, very talented player, thought he had it all figured out -- he came into OTAs, he was out of shape. He didn't make it through a practice. I said, 'How can you come out of shape? You're a corner!' I took it personal because I was the one who drafted him. ... I said, [to coach Tony Dungy], 'Tony, I ain't playing him. Until he learns how to be a pro, I'm not gonna play him.' I said, 'Here's what you're gonna do.' I put him on last team, he was the scout team guy, didn't play. I said [to Barber], 'I'll let you know when you're ready.'
"And [after a year] I said, 'Now you're ready.' He was in shock. He said, 'I'm playing right now against Brett Favre?' I said, 'Brett Favre, playoffs, you're playing. Let's go.' He never missed a snap after that. ... And Ronde will tell you today, we're like this [crosses fingers]. Best thing I ever did for him. Said he figured it out. And when I walked up to him, he was in shock. ... Watching him prepare, watching how he worked in the classroom, in practice. I made it hard on him because I knew he was special. But he had to earn it. He had to learn how to be a pro."
'You've got two days -- I'm gonna practice on Wednesday'
Ronde Barber: "Super Bowl year, [in the Bucs' 23-10 win over the Carolina Panthers] probably in the second or third quarter, [I broke my thumb]. You start hearing this [clicking]. When you have a broken bone, when you push on it, it clicks. And it kinda hurts (laughs). I went to the sideline, showed [then head athletic trainer] Todd Toriscelli, and he's like, 'Yeah, it's probably broken.' I'm like, 'Ah, we'll deal with it after the game (laughs).'
"The doc looked at it afterwards and was like, 'Yeah, it's definitely broken. We'll fix it, put a cast on it, you'll be out probably two to three weeks.' And I said, 'You've got two days. I'm gonna practice on Wednesday.' I had surgery on Monday, recovered on Tuesday, practiced on Wednesday, we played Green Bay that week and I got an interception. The hard part was that it was my left thumb and I was on the right side of the defense, so he was throwing into this hand, so I had to use my body and right hand [to make a one-handed interception]. But I found a way. Forced my will on Brett Favre (laughs)."
'I'm making sure they know who I am'
In the 2002 NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles, with 3:27 to go in the fourth quarter, Barber intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass and returned it for a touchdown to propel the Bucs to Super Bowl XXXVII, the first in franchise history.
Tiki Barber: "Most people forgot what preceded that -- this ridiculous play that Donovan made that got them down to the -yard line or whatever it was. And the crowd ... it was deafening. They were screaming, it was the last game in the Vet and they think they've got the momentum and they're heading to a Super Bowl.
"He improvised. He's like, 'I'm gonna fake a blitz, just to get in Donovan's head and you saw him like step into the line of scrimmage ... and then backed out into what was the base defense -- it was enough to fool Donovan. When he stepped into that lane and picked it off, he didn't catch it clean, but I knew it was over. He started pointing to his back as he gets down to, I don't know what it was, the 2-yard line, and after the game I was like, 'What the hell were you doing?' And he's like, 'I'm making sure they know who I am.' It was awesome."
Former Bucs defensive back Dexter Jackson: “I was behind the receiver [Antonio Freeman]. Ronde was in front. I was hoping he would tip the ball up in the air and I could catch it. He did a great job of holding the guy off behind him and just breaking on the ball and made a great play. One thing about Ronde Barber -- he was always making plays, always around the football. ... I knew it was over. I was running behind Ronde, watching him score, just saying, 'Finally, finally we have this off our back.' We lost twice in Philadelphia ... but this time, it was our day, we came into Philly and won.”
Tiki Barber: "Anytime I'm in Philadelphia -- because we go down there every now and then -- and Philly fans say, 'Hey, Tiki, I hate you, but I respect you.' The thing that I always say -- 'I promise you hate my brother more.' And after a quarter of a second, they're like, 'You know, you're right.'"