For many Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, it remains one of the greatest plays in team history. During the 2002 NFC championship game in a frigid Philadelphia, Ronde Barber intercepted an Eagles pass and raced 92 yards for a touchdown. As Times columnist John Romano recently wrote, Barber’s spectacular return not only sent the Bucs to their first Super Bowl (which they won), it “exorcised so many demons that had haunted Tampa Bay fans for so many years.’'
Barber, a Hall of Fame finalist who holds numerous NFL and team records, retired in 2013 after spending his entire 16-year career with the Bucs. He became a color commentator on radio and TV and with twin brother Tiki, a former New York Giants player, wrote several children’s books. Barber is also general chairperson of Copperhead Charities, sponsor of this month’s Valspar Championship, a PGA tournament event on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor. We recently caught up with Barber. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get involved with the tournament and Copperhead Charities?
While I was still playing football, tournament director Tracy West invited me to host a couple of events for them during the tourney week. Two years later, the then-general chair of Copperheads, Les Muma, asked if I’d be interested in joining the board. He thought it would be something to benefit them and certainly me, help me stay involved in the community with something I really love, which is golf. That was probably seven years ago going on eight.
What is Copperhead Charities and how does one join?
It’s made up of about 180, 200 businessmen and women, civil servants. You just have to want to be a Copperhead, and handle responsibility. You have to love golf — you don’t have to be good at golf, you just have to want to be around other people that love golf.
All PGA tour events are run by (nonprofit) organizations so our goal other than putting on a pretty kick-ass event every year with the best players in the world is to raise dollars for local charities. Over the past 40 years we’ve raised over $46 million or so. Every year we try to give around $2 million, and (in 2021) we were able to give $1.7 million even coming out the pandemic.
What are some of the organizations that Copperhead Charities supports?
Obviously Habitat for Humanity, it’s one of the biggest ones because Valspar is involved with them in the painting of houses. We support all the First Tees of Tampa Bay. They introduce the game of golf to children and adults who others wouldn’t be introduced to the game.
Have you helped build any Habitat houses?
I have two girls, and probably four or five years ago we went to a Habitat build and they were like, “it’s hard work, man!” Of the group I was with, I was strong and more agile so I had to get up and hang trusses.
You said Copperheads don’t have to be good at golf, just love it. How’s your game?
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Considering I’m mostly retired, it’s pretty good. I play a lot. I have one of those wives that allows me to get out three or four times a week. With practice comes expertise.
While you were doing commentary, did you ever wish you were back down on the field?
No, 16 years of playing is enough. I joke all the time with people that I completely ran the wheels off the bus. I was done playing football. Fortunately, I knew exactly what I was going to be able to do. I worked for Fox Sports for seven years and my contract ran out two years ago. It’s been kind of a blessing because this role now has its time and responsibilities.
How did you and your brother become authors?
Way back when, Tiki and I were both Verizon literacy champions. Tiki was the ambassador in New York and I was the ambassador in Tampa and basically we would encourage young boys to read. Somewhere along the line a publisher from Simon and Schuster, whose son was a fan of Tiki’s, said “you guys’ story would make a good children’s book” and asked if we’d be interested in writing one. We did a picture book that was very successful and then two more picture books and then we aged up and wrote more.
That’s pretty impressive.
Our book, Game Day, won a Christopher Award (honoring media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit”). One of the coolest things we got to do was that twice we had books chosen by the Bush Family Literacy Foundation as books of the year.
Do people still comment about that 92-yard run in 2002?
I would say that every new person that I meet that was of age at that time, if they’re from Tampa that’s the first thing they say. Interesting part is that almost everybody I meet from Philly says something, too.