Ronde and Tiki Barber helped each other realize their football dreams by never wavering in their mutual support
Right now, Yammil Rose mainly enjoys the pictures. Someday soon, she'll begin to understand the story, and then she'll learn a little bit about Daddy and Uncle Tiki.
And somewhere along the way, Yammil Rose may learn a thing or two about family, determination and dreams.
Yammil is the older of Ronde and Claudia Barber's two little girls. Every night, her father reads to her from a children's book entitled By My Brother's Side, a story of twin boys who help each other handle adversity and achieve their goals. It's the true childhood story of Ronde and Tiki Barber, the National Football League's twin stars, related and illustrated in a way to inspire today's young boys and girls.
Told by the Barbers with the help of author Robert Burleigh, and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, By My Brother's Side is a 32-page, hardcover book warmly illustrated by Barry Root. It is available in bookstores and at SimonSaysKids.com. Ronde Barber hopes that it will convey the lessons that helped him and his brother get where they are today.
"Our book is about family and determination, and what you can do when you have ultimate togetherness with someone," said Ronde. "For me, it was Tiki, but for a kid that doesn't have a brother or a sister it could be a parent, a best friend or somebody else."
The Barbers, who were approached for the project by a Simon & Schuster editor whose son was a big fan of Tiki's, have long supported literacy initiatives. By My Brother's Side is another ambitious step in that pursuit, as the brothers hope their names on the cover will draw children into the joys of reading.
"I'm very proud of this book," said Ronde. "I like the way it came out. I think it will have a good response. We want to get it in the hands of kids. If kids pick up a book just because we're the authors of it, then that's a good thing. That promotes our literacy efforts."
The book's plot follows the Barber twins through a particularly formative year in their childhood. At the root of the story is a leg injury suffered by Tiki, now a running back for the New York Giants, that threatened to keep him from playing sports. With Ronde's encouragement and support, Tiki overcame his injury and the two went on to be very successful teammates in high school and college.
Ronde is now a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both brothers achieved one of their shared goals when they reached the Super Bowl, Tiki in 2000 and Ronde in 2002. Tiki's Giants lost to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV while Ronde's Buccaneers defeated Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII. But their dreams really were threatened that summer in Virginia, and both brothers still credit their togetherness for allowing them to reach the pinnacle of their profession.
"The story is 100% true," said Ronde. "I guess some of the details might be filtered through our childhood memories, but it happened just as it says in the book. Tiki did miss a whole summer of sports, and we stuck together the whole time. I remember Mom and the doctor talking about Tiki and saying he definitely wouldn't play sports that year, and maybe not the next year. For young kids, not being able to play sports was the end of the world."
Ronde helped his brother stay positive during the time Tiki was off his feet, as seen in this excerpt from By My Brother's Side.
*Baseball season was winding down, and for Tiki it was still the longest summer he could remember. Ronde dug in at the plate. Tiki sat in the dugout with his leg stretched straight out, cheering on his brother.
Ronde rode his bike. Tiki sat under a tree, waiting for his brother to come around the block one more time.
Ronde practiced his springs. Tiki watched, counting the weeks until football practice would begin.
Ronde walked fast. Tiki limped behind.
"Come on, Tiki. You can do it. I know you can. We're supposed to meet Chris in five minutes."
"I'm trying. Wait up."
"You know I won't leave you behind."*
Ronde and Tiki spent hours going over possible book outlines with Burleigh before all decided that Tiki's tough year would be the focal point. Burleigh then fleshed out the details by speaking with the Barbers' mother, coaches and friends. Ronde understood the responsibility in publishing a children's book and is very pleased with the results.
"When you make a book geared to an older crowd, you can pretty much say whatever," he said. "You can put your opinions in there and be a little more harsh or critical if you want. But when you're making a children's book, it's got to have a message. It's got to say something that kids can relate to. I think this one does."
For now, Ronde is simply happy to have a good book he can share with Yammil Rose at bedtime.
"I read it to her just about every night," he said. "She just wants to be in front of it, and I'm glad I have something of mine to give her."