Today's news hit me like a ton of bricks. Ronde Barber, one of the greatest Buccaneers to ever don a Tampa Bay uniform was hanging it up.
16 amazing NFL seasons, team record 241 games and the only cornerback in NFL history with more than 25 sacks and more than 40 interceptions. 14 return touchdowns. 5 Pro Bowls...the accolades go on and on.
Its so ironic in today's microwave society that there were some in Tampa Bay who believed the Bucs wasted their 3rd round pick in the 1997 draft. His first season he barely saw the field, playing in just one game. Year two he was a part time starter and in year three he underwhelmed as a full time starter for the first time.
It was 2000 when Ronde would start the entire season and begin to become the player Buc fans know him as now.
Ronde had a remarkable 5.5 sacks from his corner position, 97 tackles, 2 interceptions and 24 passes defended.
Two years later, Ronde gave me the greatest sporting moment of my life.
I'll freely admit it, folks. I gave the Bucs little chance of going to Philadelphia and upsetting the Eagles in the 2002 NFC title game. Philly was where Buc seasons went to die.
Even with the Bucs having a lead into the fourth quarter, there was that twinge of doubt that somehow it was going to end in heartbreak - after all, these were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - who would of thought they would EVER play in the Super Bowl?
Then in one magic moment, a little defensive back from the University of Virginia made a grown man cry like a pre-teen at a One Direction concert.
There was Ronde, sticking in the dagger for Tampa Bay's NFC Championship and breaking the hearts of Eagles fans everywhere. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed.
When Ronde Barber took that interception coast to coast there was no doubt that he would be seared in my memory until the end of my days.
The Bucs will have great moments again. They may lift the Lombardi Trophy once more. But nothing will beat that first time. The magic you felt when you knew...just knew the Bucs were headed to San Diego to play in the biggest American Football game in the world.
There were a lot of great Buccaneers who contributed to that game and moment. But it was Barber who sealed it.
It will always be Barber.
I'd like to think that Ronde will one day join Lee Roy, Warren and number 55 in Canton. I believe he deserves it, but I don't know if he will.
Ronde has gone through a career of being disrespected. Remember that famous quote after the NFC title game? Barber was still miffed he got left out of the Pro Bowl and he exclaimed, "Pro Bowl my ass I'm going to San Diego (site of Super Bowl 37) baby!"
Ronde gave Bucs fans a lot more memories than that frozen January day in 2002. He was the consummate pro, a quiet leader, a tremendous football player and a pillar of the community.
I'm sure he'll have his pick of options for his future endeavors but I hope he goes into broadcasting. He'll be light years better than the Teddy Bruschi's and Jamie Dukes' of the world, not to mention his brother Tiki.
Ronde's retirement is the final curtain drawing closed on the Super Bowl 37 Champions.
Congrats on a great 16 years Ronde! We'll miss ya.