Though they're now NFL superstars, Ronde and Tiki Barber learned as children that playing a supporting role can be critical to a team's success
They got the whole team back together again.
Ronde and Tiki Barber, the twin NFL superstars who became publishing partners last year with the children's book By My Brother's Side, knew a good team when they had one. So when it was time to put out the second installment of a planned three-book series, the Barbers knew who would be in the huddle and what plays would be called.
Author Robert Burleigh would again assist the Barbers in putting their story to paper. Illustrator Barry Root would provide the second book with the same warm and attractive artwork. And Simon & Schuster publisher Paula Wiseman, whose brainchild the series was in the first place, would once again shepherd the project to success.
And at the heart of the book once again would be the valuable life lessons Ronde and Tiki learned as inseparable twins growing up in Roanoke, Virginia and finding success on the playing field.
The result is Game Day, the follow up to Brother's and another hit with young readers.
The Barbers' first book sprang from a childhood episode in which Tiki suffered a broken leg and spoke to the importance of family members sticking together and helping each other accomplish their dreams. Game Day is more directly related to the sports experience and its universal lessons.
"All the books will have similar themes – perseverance, family values and the like," said Ronde, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback. "This one addresses the fact that not everybody is the superstar on your team. In the context of this book, I'm not the superstar, Tiki is. He gets all the plays. This one's about the supporting roles that every team has. In this book, I'm that guy."
In real life, both brothers have proven to be among the NFL's best players. In fact, they traveled to Hawaii together last February to play in the Pro Bowl for the NFC team, Ronde starting on defense and Tiki, the New York Giants running back, playing on offense. It is, in fact, their shared star status in the league that has made both books a success so far.
"I think we knew these books would be well-received," said Ronde. "Who we are as twin brothers, where we are in our careers…I think people understand that we are a rarity. And we have some interesting stories from our childhood, too, so we knew it would be successful. Having the right people work on it and cultivating some of our childhood stories into a picture book was all it was going to take, and we found those people.
In Game Day, Tiki has emerged as the star running back on the brothers' youth football team, overshadowing Ronde's own contributions. The team's best play involves a sweep by Tiki in which Ronde usually provides the key block. When it works, Tiki often scores and is congratulated by his team, while Ronde begins to feel unappreciated for his role.
When Ronde has to miss a game with an injured ankle, Tiki has a more difficult time running, and the team's coach makes Ronde understand how important his role had been. And, in the big game, Ronde gets his chance to shine.
"It's pretty close to real events," said Ronde. "There is obviously a little creative license, but these are true stories. Obviously, you have to embellish them a little bit to make the story flow a little bit, but these are things that we actually went through. We think there are real lessons there."
No matter what lesson is learned, the story is a success as soon as a child picks it up to read. The three-book project is part of a nationwide reading program, Verizon Literary Champions, in which the Barbers are heavily involved. Ronde and Tike, in fact, are co-captains of the "Read Across America" program that has attracted more than 45 million readers.
"That's the overall goal," said Ronde. "Publishing a children's book ties in perfectly with our literacy initiative. Before all of this, we didn't know we were going to be authors, but when the opportunity rose it was obviously something we jumped on. And it has worked out wonderfully, thanks to the help of a lot of good people."
Sounds like a good lesson for the next story.