Ronde Barber was one of those who was most thrilled when John Lynch's long wait for Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement finally came to a happy conclusion last year. Now Barber is a step closer to joining Lynch in that elite fraternity of all-time NFL greats.
On Wednesday, Barber was named one of 26 semifinalists for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2022. It marked the fifth straight time he has advanced to the semifinalist stage, making that cut in every year of his eligibility so far. Last year, Barber was also named a finalist for the first time; that next paring down of the field to 15 nominees will occur in January as Barber seeks to become the fifth player in the Hall of Fame who played all or most of his career with the Buccaneers. The other four are Lynch, Lee Roy Selmon, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp.
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.
Barber was a third-round draft pick by the Buccaneers 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.
Barber's 14 non-offensive touchdowns rank fourth in NFL history. According to Pro Football Reference, his 1,177 career tackles are the most ever by a cornerback. Barber helped revolutionize the nickel corner position during his long career, excelling in coverage, run support and blitzing out of the slot. His 16 seasons of unfailingly high-level play were rewarded with five Pro Bowl invitations and five Associated Press All-Pro selections, including three on the first team.