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CANTON — For the first 10 years of Ronde Barber’s NFL career, the defensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monte Kiffin mispronounced his name.
“Randy,” Kiffin would call the cornerback.
And that was somehow fitting because Ronde Barber wasn’t supposed to be playing in the NFL for 16 seasons. Or even one season. He wasn’t supposed to be good.
And he wasn’t supposed to be great enough to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But that’s where he found himself Saturday afternoon — enshrined as the 23rd cornerback in the history of the planet to become a Hall of Famer.
Ordinary Not Option For Ronde Barber
“After today, there will be 23 corners in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Barber said during his enshrinement speech on Saturday. ” And I’m not like any of them – because I couldn’t be!
“I’m here because I refused to just be a guy. Ordinary was not an option.”
“The NFL is a special place! No matter where you come from, no matter where you started your journey, no one gets to define you but you. The league will reward you if you dare to be uncommon … and just choose to be a little bit extra ordinary!”
Barber understood early on in his career that he didn’t seem extraordinary.
His was a journey far from common.
“I stand here, amongst these legends of the game, remembering a time when I was never imagined to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” he said. “My rookie year – hell, my second year – I was just hoping not to be in Rich McKay’s conversation about guys he was going to cut!!
“Not all of us are anointed; or can’t-miss prospects, proclaimed to be future Hall of Famers on Day One of our careers.”
Barber played those 16 seasons and collected 47 interceptions, 28 sacks and 8 TDs.
“So, I had to become uncommon,” Barber said. “I never set out to be one of the 371 best players to play professional football. If anything, it was to do things that others either could not or would not do. Amongst my peers, I felt I had to do more to be equal.
“Do uncommon things. Find Legendary.”
Barber Joins Buccaneers Hall Of Famers
Barber was overlooked his first, maybe, five seasons. And he knew it. And it drove him.
“It was this doubt that most bothered me,” Barber said. “But it also provided the fuel to send me to work angry. I never was going to be satisfied just being a guy. Ordinary was not an option.”
Barber credits now Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for awakening a future Hall of Famer in him.
“My football journey that I’ve been on for 40 years has reached its zenith,” Barber said. “And with that realization comes reflection. There is nowhere else to go. I can stop being an angry worker. Stop trying to prove everyone wrong.
“I’ve come a long way in the last 26 years.”