Though I know I sound like my grandpa, here goes: Athletes back in the day were better role models, dagnabbit! • Best example? Ronde Barber. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, a skinny fifth-year cornerback whose interception against the Eagles sealed an NFC championship and took the Bucs to the Super Bowl in 2002, not only exhibited fine football skills but also impeccable character. • It's never good to stereotype, but it's hard to look up to athletes when, for instance, one day Aaron Hernandez is indicted on a murder charge and the next A-Rod is public enemy No. 1. But from Barber, we can all learn a few things about approaching daily life and future careers.
1 Life tip: Approach your work with quiet confidence, not cockiness. When Barber made a great play he didn't do a dance, he just handed the ball to the official and jogged off the field. Lesson: When you do good, do not brag about it.
2 Life tip: Don't let others change you. Barber was surrounded by some brash and boastful people, such as Warren Sapp and loud-mouthed receiver Keyshawn Johnson, but he didn't let them rub off on him. Lesson: Stay true to yourself.
3 Life tip: Get up every day willing to give 110 percent at whatever lies ahead. I saw Barber his final year in training camp. While other defensive players were going half speed and giving half effort, Barber, a good deal older than his teammates, was flying around the field with the intensity of a fresh rookie. Lesson: If you give 110 percent, you'll always be on the high road.
4 Life tip: No matter what, give back to the community. Barber, who announced his retirement in May after 16 years, has always been an active reader and participates in local literacy efforts. He has filmed a public service announcement for breast cancer awareness, and he is part of Chair Scholars, a Florida-based charity that provides scholarships for disabled students. Lesson: Don't forget your roots, no matter how big you grow.