This past Sunday, Ronde Barber made his 200th consecutive start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is the current active record. At age 37, he had a career day with five tackles, a sack, an interception and led his team to a 16-10 over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ronde Barber, 37, still enjoys playing football
He has been here longer than sweat.
If you are trying to sum up the legacy of Ronde Barber, the Bucs' forever man, this is where you start. He is timeless. He is ageless. He is eternal.
He has been here longer than sunburns, longer than mosquitoes, longer than third down. Once, when he was young, he covered Ponce de Leon man on man.
Other stars come, and other stars go, and still, Barber remains. He has outlasted his contemporaries, his coaches, his critics. For the Bucs, he is the last piece of the dynasty, the last member of the royal family.
Also, he is still here, still essential, still standing between the opponent and the goal line.
Can anyone remember when that wasn't the case?
Barber is 37 now, and there is mileage in his legs and wear throughout his body. In each of the past two offseasons, Barber admits there have been days — a lot of days — when he has convinced himself it was time to retire, to turn in his helmet and head for the golf course.
In the end, however, Barber has always decided he hasn't had enough, after all. And that guy who will eventually take his place? He can sit in the waiting room just a little bit longer.
"I still like coming to work," says Barber, entering his 16th season.
"I still like doing my job. When the desire is no longer driving me, I won't be here anymore. I have other things I want to do."
But not now. Not yet.
Barber seizes the moment
Before the game, the new head coach approached the Iron Man. Greg Schiano approached the ageless one on the subject of beginning the Bucs' season opener at his old home, cornerback.
"Is it important?" Schiano asked.
Ronde Barber thought, then smiled.
"Well, 200 is a nice even number."
"All right, you're going to play nickel in the first snap no matter what they're in, get the 200 that way, and then we'll go about our business," Schiano said.
After the game, Barber smiled again.
"It was a great gesture by him. It was much appreciated."
So was the way Mr. 200 played. Oh, did he go about his business.
Sack, pick, play after play. Few Bucs have ever seized a stage like Ronde Barber, more by deed than talk, but he seizes it just the same. He is the man for moments.
On the day of his 200th consecutive NFL start, a ridiculous number, the 37-year-old Barber was ridiculously sensational to start his 16th NFL season, sack, pick, and more, lighting the way as the Bucs broke big and bold under Schiano, a 16-10 win over Carolina, a defensive win.
The oldest man in this game tore it to pieces, even as tributes from old teammates and coaches flooded video boards at Raymond James Stadium.