Virginia’s Ronde Barber elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: Bucs Wire

Ronde Barber’s time has come.

The former Virginia star, who went on to revolutionize how the way slot cornerback position was played in the NFL, has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Barber, who grew up in Roanoke with identical twin, Tiki, who also went on to star at UVA and the NFL, was unveiled as part of Canton’s Class of 2023.

Barber is the fifth Cavalier to make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining Bill Dudley, Henry Jordan, former coach Earle “Greasy” Neale, and former Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr.

Playing for College Football Hall of Fame coach George Welsh at UVA, Barber was a first-team All-ACC cornerback in each of his three seasons (1994, 1995 and 1996) before he turned pro after his junior season. He was second- or third-team All-American all three of those seasons.

Starring at Cave Spring High School, Ronde and Tiki helped Virginia’s program remain prominent in college football during their careers. Along the way, Ronde was named ACC Rookie of the Year in 1994 after posting eight (led the conference) of his career 15 interceptions.

Barber played his entire 16-year pro career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and is the fifth Buc to be elected to the Hall of Fame, along with Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch (current general manager of the 49ers). Together, Barber, Sapp, Brooks and Lynch were the stars of a legendary defense that dominated in the late 1990s and early 2000’s, culminated by a Super Bowl XXXVII championship.

“During his legendary career as a Buccaneer, Ronde established himself as one of the most iconic players in team history and his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame further solidifies him as one of the greatest players of all time,” said the Glazer Family (Bucs owners) in a statement late Thursday night.

“Ronde was the embodiment of a true professional, a fierce competitor and a student of the game. He was a natural leader who always found a way to leave his mark on the game and was responsible for some of the most memorable moments in our franchise history. We look forward to celebrating his legendary career later this year when he takes his rightful place alongside the other Buccaneers Hall of Famers in Canton.”

Barber’s accomplishments in the NFL are mind-boggling. He is the only player in league history to record 200 consecutive starts at cornerback, while his 232 starts and 241 games played are Tampa records. Only two other defensive backs in NFL history — Darrell Green and Charles Woodson — started more contests. Barber started 215-straight games to end his career and never missed a game due to injury.

He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and led the NFL in interceptions (10) in 2001. He also led the league in picks in both 2004 and 2005.

All the while, he was changing the way the slot corner spot was played. Splitting time as either an outside corner or an inside corner in the nickel formation, his ability to blitz was unparalleled, as he finished with an eye-popping 1,428 career tackles, unheard of for a corner and second-most in Bucs history.

A key member of that dominating Tampa Bay run defense, he was just as effective in pass coverage. He holds the Buccaneers’ record for career interceptions with 47, but at the same time posted 28 sacks, the second-most ever by an NFL defensive back. In fact, 27 of those 28 sacks came from the corner position. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 interceptions and at least 25 sacks.

During that reign of terror, Barber scored 14 non-offensive touchdowns in his regular-season career and another in postseason, the fourth-most in NFL history behind only Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson and Devin Hester. 

A dozen of those 14 scores came on defense, including eight pick-sixes and four fumble returns for TDs.

His one postseason pick-six couldn’t have been any bigger. It came in the 2002 NFC Championship game, when Barber picked off a pass and went 92 yards for a touchdown that put Tampa in the Super Bowl.