Ronde Barber and John Lynch celebrated a Super Bowl Championship together in January of 2003, and 17 years later they could all be on the same Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot this coming January.
For the fourth year in row, those two superstars from one of the best defenses in NFL history are together on the Hall of Fame's list of semifinalist candidates for the Class of 2021. That list of 25 players was culled from the original pool of 130 nominees announced in September. In January, that group of 25 will be further pared down to 15 finalists, after which the Hall of Fame Voting Committee will choose up to five of them for inclusion in the next class to arrive in Canton.
Lynch is a semifinalist for the ninth straight year, and in each of the past seven years he has also made the cut to the top 15. Barber is a semifinalist for a fourth consecutive year. Both Lynch and Barber have been semifinalists every year they've been eligible.
Barber and Lynch were Buccaneer teammates from 1997-03, a stretch that included the franchise's dominant victory over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII. That championship came at the end of one of the best seasons for any defense in NFL history, as the 2002 Buccaneers allowed only 12.3 points per game and racked up 43 sacks and 38 takeaways. In the Super Bowl, the Buccaneers set Super Bowl records with five interceptions and three pick-sixes.
Lynch's 11-year Buccaneer tenure began when he was drafted in the third round in 1993; he finished his career with four seasons (2004-07) as a Denver Bronco. He was named to the Pro Bowl following nine of those 14 seasons. Lynch has the rare honor of being named to the Ring of Honor for two different franchises, as he was given that honor by both the Buccaneers and the Broncos in 2016. Lynch is currently the general manager of the 10-1 San Francisco 49ers.
Barber was also a third-round draft pick by the Buccaneers, becoming Lynch's teammate in 1997. He would spend his entire NFL career in Tampa, setting franchise records for games played (241), games started (232), interceptions (47) and defensive touchdowns (14). He started 215 consecutive games to end his career, including an NFL record 200 straight at cornerback. Barber is the only player in league history to record at least 45 interceptions and at least 25 sacks.
Lynch earned three first-team Associated Press All-Pro selections and one second-team choice to go with those nine Pro Bowl nods. Barber was an All-Pro five times, including three first-team selections, made five Pro Bowls and was a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
Lynch is considered one of the hardest-hitting defenders in NFL history, and as a Buccaneer he earned the nickname, "The Closer," from Monte Kiffin for his penchant for game-sealing turnovers. Barber perfected his role in the Buccaneers' revolutionary Tampa Two defense, playing both on the outside and in the slot and adding 1,428 tackles to his interception and sack totals, a remarkable total for a cornerback.
Barber and Lynch hope to join the three members of the Hall of Fame who played all or the majority of their careers with the Buccaneers: Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Sapp and Brooks were also members of the 2002 Super Bowl team.