On Tuesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame revealed the 108 modern-era nominees from which the Class of 2018 will eventually be culled. On the ballot for the first time, and taking his first step towards what could be enshrinement among the game's all-time greats, is former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber.
Barber was nominated in his first year of eligibility, having been retired from his playing career for five years. He is one of 11 nominees eligible for the first time, joining a star-studded group that also includes Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Steve Hutchinson. The Hall of Fame selection committee will narrow the original group to 25 semifinalists in November and then to 15 finalists in January before choosing the 2018 class on the eve of Super Bowl LII. No more than five modern-era players can enter the Hall in a single year.
The best photos of cornerback Ronde Barber.
Barber is one of three current Hall nominees who played all or prominent portions of their career as Buccaneers. Safety John Lynch is nominated again after being among the 15 finalists in each of the last four years. Defensive end Simeon Rice is also a nominee for the third year in a row; Barber, Lynch and Rice were all key performers on the legendary defense that led Tampa Bay to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. Former offensive tackle Lomas Brown, also one of this year's nominees, was also on that 2002 Bucs' team that won the title, though he was a reserve in his final NFL season after 17 previous pro years, mostly with the Detroit Lions.
Three members of the Hall of Fame spent all or most of their careers as Buccaneers: Lee Roy Selmon, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp. Barber will present a very strong case to join that group, perhaps joining Brooks and Sapp as first-year-eligible inductees. Like Selmon and Brooks, Barber played his entire NFL career in a Bucs uniform, a 16-year run in which he set franchise records with 241 games played, 232 starts and 47 interceptions.
Barber, in fact, started more games than all but two other defensive backs in league history, Hall-of-Famer Darrell Green and Charles Woodson, who is likely Canton-bound when eligible. Green is the only player to start more games at cornerback than Barber, and no other corner in league history can match his 200 consecutive starts.
Moreover, Barber is the only player in NFL annals at any position who recorded at least 25 sacks (he had 28.0) and at least 45 interceptions. He was a big-play machine for the Buccaneers, scoring an incredible 14 touchdowns. Only three players in the history of the league (Devin Hester, Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson) own more non-offensive touchdowns. And if Hall voters like signature plays, Barber checks that mark as well. His game-sealing 92-yard interception in the 2002 NFC Championship Game sent the Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl and is one of the most memorable moments in playoff history.
Coincidentally, the quarterback he victimized for that unforgettable pick-six, Donovan McNabb, is also on this year's initial list of Hall nominees. For that matter, so is Barber's twin brother, former Giants running back Tiki Barber.
Ronde Barber also had another big game against McNabb in a 2006 regular-season contest, returning two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game, which tied an NFL single-season record. In 2000, he led the league with 10 picks, a Buc record. That was the first of his five Pro Bowl seasons, and the first of three times he was named an Associated Press All-Pro. Unlike some cornerbacks, Barber was also a willing and talented tackler, with an incredible 1,231 stops in his career.
Ronde Barber's road to Canton began in 1997, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him in the third round. It may now be nearing its destination.