The term “role model” is used too often, especially for sports figures, who often display little self-discipline off the field. But Ronde Barber is the rare exception. He has been a remarkable role model — for the young and adults alike — throughout his career.
Barber, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back who announced his retirement after 16 seasons on Thursday, is not just an outstanding football player who played the game with dedication and enthusiasm.
He is an articulate, generous man who has contributed to the community since joining the Bucs in 1997 after being chosen in the third round of the National Football League draft.
We’ll leave it to the football experts to debate whether the Bucs’ offseason free-agent and trade acquisitions for the defensive backfield made Barber’s decision for him.
The bottom line is one of the greatest Bucs of all will no longer suit up, and that is profoundly sad.
We’ll no longer see the cagey Barber dart in front of the receiver to pick off a pass and take it to the house — as he did to exorcise the Bucs’ demons at the Vet in Philadelphia on a brutally cold day in 2003. All of Tampa was running with him. The greatest play in Bucs’ history sent the once hapless franchise to its only Super Bowl, where they walloped the Oakland Raiders in San Diego.
We’ll no longer be able to watch Barber run around much larger men to sack the quarterback or muscle down a running back.
His departure is the end of an era. Barber was the last active Buc to have played on that Super Bowl team, and his 215 consecutive starts are the most by a defensive back in NFL history.
For Barber to have played his entire career for our team is special in itself. In this time of high-priced free agency, few players stay in one town for long. But we watched Barber grow from a young man out of the University of Virginia into a 38-year-old veteran who could hold his own against much younger players.
We thank Barber for the memories and wish him the best. And we look forward to seeing him inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.