Home UVA alum, ‘Hoos football great Ronde Barber inducted into NFL Hall of Fame

UVA alum, ‘Hoos football great Ronde Barber inducted into NFL Hall of Fame

Scott Ratcliffe
ronde barber
Photo: UVA Athletics

It’s officially official — former Cave Spring High School and University of Virginia defensive back Ronde Barber will forever be known as “Pro Football Hall of Famer No. 363.”

After 16 stellar, record-setting seasons in the NFL (1997-2012), all of them with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ organization, Barber was inducted in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday afternoon with a group of over 400 friends and loved ones in attendance.

He was introduced by and accompanied by his twin brother, Tiki Barber, at Saturday’s enshrinement ceremony, and the two revealed Ronde’s bronze bust shortly before he began his well-rehearsed induction speech.

Barber, now 48 years old, went on to thank numerous former colleagues and teammates from all levels of the sport, as well as coaches, mentors and other friends for their support along the way. From former Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy to former UVA assistant Art Markos and many others in between, Barber took the time to recognize each of those who left the biggest impact on his time as a football player.

Ronde also thanked his family — Tiki, his two daughters, Yammile and Justyce, his wife Claudia, and his mother Geraldine, all of whom have had a significant impact on his life and his playing career.

Barber also gave a huge shoutout to all of the people who doubted him along the way, pointing out that some of those negative thoughts and comments about his smaller stature and potential lack of “coachability” helped fuel his internal fire to be the best.

“It was a knock that he was uncoachable,” Tiki revealed in a short film to introduce his brother. “Tony Dungy saw something in him. Now we fast forward 16 years later, he’s one of the most accomplished cornerbacks in NFL history. That’s a testament to him. Ronde’s playing style was very aggressive and opportunistic.”

He can now proudly sport his gold jacket and say he’s one of just 371 members of the Hall of Fame and one of only 23 cornerbacks, as he touched on to conclude his speech.

“I’ve come a long way in 26 years,” said Barber. “After today, there’ll be 23 corners in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I’m not like any one of them, because I couldn’t be. I’m here because I refused to just be a guy — ordinary was not an option. And I learned something along the way in the NFL. It’s a special place, man. No matter where you come from, no matter where your journey started, no one gets to define you but you. This league rewards you if you dare to be uncommon, and choose to be a little bit extra-ordinary.”

Tiki added of his twin brother: “He proved that a smaller corner can play bigger, that a smaller corner can be put anywhere on the field and be impactful. That sometimes, it’s not about the physical makeup, it’s about the mental size and the opportunity that you give a guy, and Ronde proved that.”

Barber also praised former Tampa Bay defensive backs coach (and current Pittsburgh head coach) Mike Tomlin — who presented him with his Hall of Fame jacket on Friday night — for seeing his potential early on as a young pro.

“He told me, ‘Ronde, you’re different,’” Barber said. “That what he had seen me do, no one else was doing. He told me, ‘You’re going to be a 20-20 guy (20 career interceptions, 20 career sacks).’ Okay, so we set our sights on that, and it would be 12 more years and a 45-25 career that sent me here. Football is always changing, and Mike T., you helped me change one little corner of the game that would define me.

“I think he imagined this for me well before I could, and he gave me the air to breathe it into existence. Thanks for the empowerment, dude.”

Tomlin’s hunch proved to be spot-on. Barber finished his decorated career with numbers that no other player has matched — he’s still the only guy to ever have recorded at least 45 interceptions (he had 47 career picks) and at least 25 sacks (he racked up 28 of those) in league history. Not too shabby for someone who many initially believed couldn’t hang with some of the top receivers in the game.

A nine-time NFL Defensive Player of the Week, Barber appeared in 241 career games and started 232 in the regular season, and also played in 10 playoff games (with nine starts). He was an iron man, as he can also claim that he didn’t miss a single game in a ridiculous streak of 224 contests, an NFL record by any player at any position, and a mark that will likely never be touched.

“I don’t know how I did that, to be honest with you,” he joked on a recent podcast with Jerry Ratcliffe.

A five-time Pro Bowl participant and three-time All-Pro selection, Barber registered 1,251 career tackles (1,044 solo), the most by a DB in NFL history, and 88 of those resulted in a loss by the opposing team, also a record for his position. He forced 15 career fumbles and recovered 12, and scored 13 non-offensive touchdowns (eight pick-sixes, four fumble returns and a punt return).

“I’m not saying I’m any better or any worse than any player that ever played, but I know what I did during my career,” Barber admitted. “And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it was worthy of a place. There’s things that I did in my career that nobody has ever done, probably won’t ever do again. The game has changed even since I played.”

One of Barber’s most memorable moments came in the 2002-03 NFC Championship game in Philadelphia, when he sealed Tampa Bay’s 27-10 victory with a 92-yard interception return with 3:12 remaining. Even more memorable for his brother was his ensuing touchdown celebration.

“He’s pointing at his back and he’s basically just saying, ‘Look at me,’ basically,” Tiki recalled of that moment. “‘Look at Barber, look at my name. Remember my name.’ It was maybe his tour-de-force moment, but for our family it was one that just was so satisfying.”

Barber and the Bucs went on to cruise to a 48-21 win over the then-Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. That Tampa Bay defense, regarded by many as one of the best to ever take the field, already had three members in the Hall of Fame — Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. Now, Barber joins his former teammates in the pinnacle of football achievements.

“You don’t plan to be [a Hall of Famer], I didn’t plan to be this, but I do recognize the legends of the game that I’m joining,” Barber said. “There’s upwards of 20,000, 30,000 players that have played professional football over the course of, what are we now, 70-some years? And to be in that select group, I mean, it’s special. There’s no other way to say it. You’re special when you join that class.”

Wahoo fans always knew Barber was special, now football fans around the world will forever have an opportunity to see his accomplishments on display in Canton.

“Today’s his day to shine, but what a tremendous career,” said ESPN broadcaster Louis Riddick. “Especially for someone who plays a position that is just so physically intense in terms of requiring great movement skills and athletic ability. And you’re out there covering some of the best wide receivers, best athletes to really walk the face of the earth. And he did it at a very, very high level for a long time.”

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe has worked as a freelance writer for several publications over the past decade-plus, with a concentration on local and college sports. He is also a writer and editor for his father’s website, JerryRatcliffe.com, dedicated to the coverage of University of Virginia athletics.