TAMPA — It was football that split them apart almost a decade ago, but the game finally brought everyone together last weekend.
The Talib family reunion just outside Dallas was arranged as an NFL draft day party for Aqib, the youngest of four children and a coveted University of Kansas defensive back.
It was a gala event complete with barbecue, beverages and banners. But the gathering was really a celebration of unbroken dreams.
"It's crazy. It turned out so good, I wouldn't change anything about it," said Yaqub, 26, who as an 11th grader initiated the move with his brother from Trenton, N.J., to Texas. "Our whole family hadn't been together like that for many years, with my mom, my dad, my sister from New Jersey and my other sister from Texas. All of us together in the same place, just enjoying each other's company. Aqib being in the draft made that happen."
Defensive backs are bred to have short-term memories, to forget the last play and move forward. Otherwise, the pitfall will be repeated.
That was the mentality Yaqub used to convince his father, Theodore Henry, who stocks shelves at a Kmart distribution center in New Jersey, that the boys should move to Dallas to live with their mother, Okolo.
"In Jersey, we weren't really on a path that was going to lead us to success," Yaqub said. "It was a rough path where everything was negative. People were not making it in life. A lot of people were getting into trouble. We went to my mom's in the summer, and I was thinking it would be a lot better to go to school down there and try to do something in life. I talked to our dad, and he wanted us to do it, too."
Of course, Aqib was always willing to follow his brother. The two were inseparable as kids, which meant he was always competing against the older boys.
"I thought it was going to be a lot of cowboys and stuff," Aqib said. "When I think of Texas, that's what I think of. But it wasn't. I was in Dallas, we were kind of still in the city, so it was kind of the same. People could just drive at a younger age."
But there's a difference between who can drive and who is driven. Playing a higher level of high school football was a byproduct of the move to Texas for both brothers. At L.V. Berkner High in Richardson, Aqib was a two-way star who led his team to the Texas state championship where they lost in the first round to Dallas Carter, a football-rich program that was part of the 2004 movie Friday Night Lights.
"Actually, in the movie Friday Night Lights, they took a couple clips from our game," Aqib said. "Seriously, I'm in it. It's a Carter movie. So they're our bad plays. That's all I'll tell you is that I'm in it.
"You can see it, No. 3. It was like a Cover 2, and (the quarterback) just kind of put it right in between us. You can see our safety and me both covering up. He put it in the hole right there."
The exposure led Aqib to a football scholarship to Kansas, where he enrolled in the summer and was forced to clean ovens and floors in the players' dorm. He had 13 career interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in the Orange Bowl as the game's MVP.
He wasted little time declaring for the draft, though the decision was made tougher by fatherhood. Aqib's girlfriend, Cortney Jacobs, gave birth to the couple's first child in the offseason. They've shared a car and an off-campus apartment and are both a year from getting degrees. Jacobs plans to remain at KU until graduation.
Hurting Aqib's draft status were reports that he admitted testing positive for marijuana three times at Kansas. Aqib says it's a mistake he made 2½ years ago and one he won't repeat. "I made a bad reputation at Kansas by doing that, and I'm not dumb enough to do it again," Aqib said.
Aqib's brash personality serves him well as a cornerback, and he doesn't expect it to be a problem in the meeting room with Bucs veterans. He will compete with Phillip Buchanon for the starting left cornerback spot opposite 33-year-old Ronde Barber.
"I'm on their team now. I think they want me to come in and compete," Aqib said. "They want me to come in and help the team win a championship. That's what we're trying to do."
At his introductory news conference Monday, Aqib Talib was asked to describe the origin of his rhythmic name.
"It's a Muslim name. I know my first name means, 'The last to come,' " Aqib said. "I'm the youngest of four kids, so my first name means the last to come. My last name means … I don't know."
Seconds later, as Aqib held up a Bucs jersey with his last name on the back, coach Jon Gruden deadpanned, "His name means 'good corner,' I hope."