- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

SAN DIEGO He was a national high school champion hurdler in Roanoke, Va. He made the All-ACC team his last three years at Virginia. He has been an NFL starter for six seasons, with a Pro Bowl berth and four playoff spots, including two NFC Championship game appearances.
But Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber whose twin is New York Giants halfback/fellow Virginia alumnus Tiki has never been the most famous athlete in his family, let alone on the Buccaneers' top-ranked defense.
Until now.
Barber, 27, is finally in the spotlight sort of this week at Super Bowl XXXVII, two years after his brother made a media splash at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Fla., of all places.
"I guess this is my time, but you guys keep asking me about Tiki," Barber said. "I didn't get that [Visa] commercial [with Tiki] because I'm Ronde Barber. I got it because I was Tiki's brother. His face is all over New York. He's the face of the New York Giants. He has always been the bigger name. And Tiki is a little bit of a ham. He soaks up any opportunity [for publicity]. Tiki can be a terrible player, but because of where he lives people will say, 'There's Tiki Barber!' Tampa is a lot different. You've got to be relative with it. I know if the situations were reversed, they would love me just as much."
The Bucs certainly love Barber, who helped keep them ahead of Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game with a sack/forced fumble and then sealed the upset with a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"The thing that gets overlooked is that nobody threw the ball at Ronde this year because they knew how effective he was," Bucs All-Pro defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "When you pick the ball off 10 times the year prior, people are going to pay a little more attention to you. I would like to see anybody go after Ronde because that's our best defense."
Barber had extra motivation last Sunday because Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor of the Philadelphia Eagles (along with the Washington Redskins' Champ Bailey) kept him from repeating as one of the NFC's three Pro Bowl cornerbacks.
"Before the game, I told [defensive backs coach] Mike Tomlin, 'There are supposed to be a lot of good corners on this field. … Let's see who's the best,'" Barber said. "I like to seize the moment. You only get so many opportunities, and you've got to take advantage of them. Not making the Pro Bowl bothered me for a little while, but this is sweet redemption. I'd rather be here than in Hawaii anyway."
Sapp, weak side linebacker Derrick Brooks and strong safety John Lynch are double-dipping in San Diego and Honolulu, but Barber realizes that they have reputations of much longer standing. All three played in the Pro Bowl in 1997, when he was inactive for all but one game as a rookie.
"We have great players on our defense, and they deserve the recognition they get," Barber said. "And you guys love 'em. You should. They all have great stories. I'm trying to throw my name in the hat."
As much of a challenge as covering San Francisco's Terrell Owens in the playoff opener or Minnesota's Randy Moss in November might have been, tomorrow Barber will have to deal with two of the three leading receivers of all-time: Oakland's still potent duo of Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, as well as deep threat Jerry Porter.
"I never get too much in awe of the guys I'm playing, but it's almost an honor to play against [Rice and Brown]," Barber said. "They exemplify the receiver position, and they've done it for a long time. Me and [fellow cornerback Brian Kelly and nickel back Dwight Smith] will have our hands full, but we like our matchups."
The 5-foot-10, 178-pounder isn't cowed by his considerable size disadvantage against the Raiders' receivers.
"There aren't too many physical matchups that on paper I'm going to win, but I'll take my chances with anybody," Barber said. "I take pride in being a physical guy even though I'm only 178 pounds. If you play with a passion, you can do anything you want. I'm fearless. There's nothing that I feel I can't do. You can't go in there scared. I treat every play like it's my last one, and I want to be perfect on that play. I'm sort of a perfectionist. I'll work on one thing all day long at practice until I'm sure I know that I'm doing it right."

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