CB Aqib Talib might not have taken a walk through the Buccaneers' locker room on Monday if not for the help of his brother, Yaqub, years ago
Aqib Talib traveled a long path to get to the spot on which he stood Monday morning, in front of a podium at One Buccaneer Place, addressing the Bay area media as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2008 first-round draft pick.
Talib split time between his father in New Jersey and his mother in Cleveland as a youngster, moved to the Dallas area just before his high school years then played his college ball in Lawrence Kansas, where he helped a long-dormant team rise to national prominence. Tampa is the latest and most exciting stop in Talib's journey through life and football.
He might never have made it to the NFL, however, if not for the stubborn leadership of his older brother, Yaqub.
From an early age, Yaqub helped groom Aqib for his eventual emergence as a college star and first-round draft choice.
"[My brother] is a big influence as far as before we started playing organized football," Talib said. "My brother would always pick me on his team. We would play outside and I would play with all the older guys and he would pick me on the team first. He was a big influence on me, just playing with an older crowd all the time, so by the time I played with people my age, I was like, 'I am used to playing with guys older than you.' He played a real big part in my football career."
Perhaps more importantly, it was Yaqub who was responsible for Aqib spending his formative ball-playing years in Texas, that crucible of high school football.
The Talib brothers made the move from New Jersey to the nation's most famous high school football hotbed when Yaqub was entering his junior season in high school and Aqib was going into the eighth grade. Their mother, Okolo Talib, had just moved to the Dallas area from Cleveland, and Yaqub insisted that he and Aqib follow her there. The family found a way to make it work.
"The whole reason I moved from Jersey to Texas is because they talk about football so much," Talib said. "My brother kind of made it happen. He told my dad he wanted to go to Texas. My mom moved there, and that is when we really got started playing football.
"He was in 11th grade, so he wanted to go get those two years of Texas football in and experience that. My mom moved to Texas and he heard that and was like, 'We have to move to Texas. We have to play Texas football.' He talked my dad into it and we made the move. I was just the little brother, so it was like, 'We're going to Texas. Alright.'"
As an eighth grader moving from the hustle and bustle of New Jersey to an unfamiliar locale, Talib found the lifestyle in Dallas more familiar than he would have guessed.
"I thought [Texas] would be a lot different," Talib said. "I thought there were going to be a lot of cowboys and that type of stuff. When I think of Texas, that's what I thought, but it really wasn't. I lived in Dallas, so it was kind of the feel of the city."
The football atmosphere in the state, however, was every bit as intense as Talib expected.
"Football is really big down there," Talib said. "We have spring football; it is year round just like college. It prepares you, before you go to college, for college football. We went through summer workouts and spring football; we kind of did the whole nine. It kind of prepares you for what you are getting yourself into."
Talib went on to become a star at Berkner High School in Richardson, and even played a small part in a film that portrays just how significant high school football is in the state of Texas.
Asked if his experiences playing in the football-crazed state were anything similar to the movie "Friday Night Lights," Talib's response was surprising.
"Yeah," he said. "I'm in it."
He meant that he actually appeared in the movie, and he wasn't joking. In one part of the film, clips are shown from a playoff game after the 2002-2003 season between Dallas Carter High School and Talib's Berkner High School, and Talib said you can actually see his uniform No. 3 in one shot.
"They took a couple clips from our game," Talib said. "We got like two or three clips in the actual movie from our game, and I'm in it."
Unfortunately, the play wasn't necessarily a highlight for Talib, though he didn't seem a bit self-conscious about it. One play, he said, shows a Carter receiver splitting a zone between Talib and the safety for a long reception.
"It's a Carter movie, so they're going to show our bad plays," he laughed. "That's how I'm in it."
Although one of his less-than-stellar plays was chosen to be cemented into big-screen lore, Talib still credited the atmosphere of high school football in Texas for preparing him for the bigger stages that awaited him.
"My senior year we made the playoffs for the first time in like 30 years," Talib said. "We played in Texas Stadium [against] Carter. You know Carter's going to bring 30,000, so we had a real good crowd for that game. We brought a lot of people [and] they brought a lot of people. We lost in the first round, but it was still a pretty good crowd, a pretty good experience."
Would Talib still have developed into a first-round draft pick if not for his brother's insistence that the family make the trek to Texas? No one can definitively say, but Talib said he's still glad things worked out the way they did – and so are the Buccaneers.
"I have no idea what would have happened," Talib said. "There are a lot of good players who play in New Jersey and just never go to college, so I don't know what would have happened if I would've stayed up there. I don't know what situation I would have been in, so I'm definitely grateful that I did, that my brother did, that we made that move and went to Texas."