Although Aqib Talib stirred plenty of controversy during his time in the National Football League from 2008 to 2019, he also earned a league-wide reputation as one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the game.
After spending five forgettable seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Talib turned things around when he joined the New England Patriots in the fall of 2012.
When the Denver Broncos acquired Talib prior to the 2014 NFL season, his pro football career reached greater heights. Talib extended his Pro Bowl streak to five after his fourth year in the Mile High City.
With Talib’s exploits in the Broncos’ secondary, they earned their third Super Bowl title following the 2015 NFL season.
Aqib Talib truly showed his mettle as a defensive back during the pinnacle of his memorable pro football career.
Aqib Talib was born to parents Theodore and Okolo in Cleveland, OH on February 13, 1986. He’s the youngest in a brood that included siblings Saran, Kai, and Yaqub. Aqib’s name translates to “the last one” in Arabic, per The Capital-Journal’s Tully Corcoran.
Aqib grew close to his older brother Yaqub, who watched over him whenever their parents were out working.
Theodore and Okolo divorced sometime after the latter had Aqib. Aqib grew up in a Muslim household. His family moved from Ohio to New Jersey during his childhood.
Aqib got involved in several controversies during his college and pro football careers. His mother Okolo wasn’t a stranger to controversy, either.
According to ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha, police charged her with felony assault after she attacked another woman when Aqib was just 10 years old. Consequently, Okolo Talib received an eight-month prison sentence.
Yaqub and Aqib lived with their dad Theodore in Trenton, NJ when their mother was incarcerated.
It was around this time that Okolo Talib knew her son was going to become an athlete someday.
She told Corcoran that there was a time she saw Yaqub and Aqib doing somersaults on a mattress a neighbor had thrown out. At first, Okolo thought they were going to hurt themselves. However, as they continued flipping over on the mattress, she noticed Aqib was actually good at it.
“That’s when I knew he was going to be something,” Okolo Talib told The Capital-Journal almost a decade later. “I didn’t know what, but he was gonna be something.”
She eventually moved her two boys south to Texas when Aqib turned 14 years old.
Talib attended Lloyd V. Berkner High School in Richardson, TX. He excelled in football, basketball, and track for the Berkner Rams.
According to the Kansas Jayhawks’ official athletics website, Talib grew up idolizing legendary Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss. He also idolized defensive back Deion Sanders and wideout Michael Irvin, per 247Sports.com’s Ian McCue.
— DFW GRIDIRON CLASSIC (@DFWGRIDIRON) February 1, 2019
Talib’s high school years coincided with a turbulent time in the institution’s history. Berkner Rams head football coach Jim Ledford told The Capital-Journal’s Tully Corcoran in 2007 that there were plenty of juvenile delinquents in the school back then.
It was so bad that one of Talib’s friends was shot in the school parking lot one day. There was also a deadly shooting at a Rams football game when Talib was just six years old. Another shooting incident occurred at a game thirteen years later.
Talib paid his respects at a friend’s funeral in Richardson in 2007. At that point, it had been three years since he left for the University of Kansas.
Incidents like that made Ledford wish Talib would leave the school and flourish somewhere else. Although Talib was never directly involved in any of the shootings, trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went. Ledford felt it had something to do with the company Talib kept.
For his part, Talib agreed with his coach’s sentiment.
“It’s not just dangerous, but it’s not a good place, either,” Talib told Corcoran in his last year as a Kansas Jayhawk in 2007. “A lot of people get shot, there’s a lot of shooting and there’s a lot of drugs and stuff around there.”
Talib also got into his fair share of shenanigans in high school. He got into fights and once forged a note so he could skip class.
When Talib’s mother Okolo learned about his misadventure, she went to school and told Ledford she’d punch her son when he came around the corner.
Despite Talib’s antics, nobody disputed the fact that he was an exceptional athlete.
It wasn’t unusual for Ledford to witness Talib jump from just inside the free-throw line and dunk the basketball with authority inside the gym. Talib could also do 360-degree dunks back in high school.
Talib made the Berkner Rams football varsity squad in his junior year. His exceptional special teams play helped the Rams reach the playoffs in 2002.
The Rams squared off against the Plano Wildcats in the last game of the regular season that year. Plano scored a touchdown to tie the game at 16 apiece with 30 seconds left.
Ledford recalled that the Wildcats kicker had never missed an extra point attempt in his entire career.
Ledford called timeout, put Talib in the game, and told him to block the PAT attempt.
“He looked right at me and said, ‘Coach, I’ll get it,’ and that sucker leaped from the middle and blocked that kick,” Ledford told USA TODAY High School Sports’ Logan Newman in January 2019.
Talib’s last-second heroics propelled Berkner High to the 2002 playoffs. Not only that, but he became so good on the gridiron as a defensive back that quarterbacks never threw the ball in his direction a year later.
— The Opening (@TheOpening) April 3, 2014
Talib was more of a natural defensive back. However, his estimated 38-inch vertical leap prompted Ledford to occasionally play him at wide receiver in his triple-option offense.
Ledford himself admitted that the Rams weren’t a good passing team during Talib’s tenure at Berkner High. However, when Talib saw some time at wide receiver, he’d outjump the secondary and record a timely catch. He never dropped a single throw as a high school wideout.
With that performance, Jim Ledford believed Aqib Talib could’ve excelled as a wideout had he played high school football in today’s era.
It turned out that Ledford allowed Talib to play a bit of wide receiver because the latter grew bored of playing defensive back. Putting the clamps on the best receivers had become so routinary for Talib that he needed a new challenge.
Despite Talib’s success as a wide receiver, Ledford felt he would reach his full potential as a defensive back.
Ledford’s premonition came true when Kansas Jayhawks assistant football coach Dave Doeren became a fixture at his office and recruited Talib hard.
Although Talib wasn’t a highly-touted recruit, the Jayhawks offered him a scholarship, anyway. He readily accepted and committed to Kansas, per Corcoran.
Ledford’s instincts were spot on. Aqib Talib eventually became a big-name cornerback with the NCAA’s Kansas Jayhawks in the college football ranks.
College Days With The Kansas Jayhawks
Aqib Talib attended the University of Kansas from 2004 to 2007. He majored in sociology.
After Talib redshirted his true freshman season in 2004, he recorded 2 interceptions and 54 total tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2005.
Kansas won just seven games in Mark Mangino’s fourth year at the helm. The Jayhawks beat the Houston Cougars in the 2005 Fort Worth Bowl, 42-13.
Aqib Talib became an All-Big 12 honorable mention selection in 2005. He promptly upped the ante a season later in his redshirt sophomore campaign with 6 interceptions and 42 total tackles.
Despite Talib’s emergence, Kansas won just six games in the 2006 NCAA season and failed to receive a bowl invite for the third time in Mangino’s five-year head coaching tenure.
Nevertheless, Aqib Talib emerged as the Jayhawks’ defensive MVP in 2006. He also earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors from the Associated Press, Kansas City Star, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, and Fort Worth Star-Telegram that year.
The 2007 NCAA campaign was a season to remember for Aqib Talib.
First, Talib and his girlfriend Cortney Jacobs welcomed their daughter Kiara in the summer of 2007.
Talib’s parents Theodore and Okolo weren’t exactly happy with the turn of events.
However, to Okolo Talib’s pleasant surprise, her son was ready for the serious responsibilities of fatherhood.
Okolo flew from her New Jersey home to stay with Aqib and his family in Lawrence, KS in September 2007.
She thought Aqib and Cortney would need some help with their newborn baby. She never had to do much as 21-year-old Aqib always told her he had everything taken care of.
Talib’s father Theodore Henry inspired him to become a great dad himself.
“He showed me how to take care of a family,” Talib told ESPN seven years later. “He showed me what it means to be a man.”
— AqibTalib21 (@AqibTalib21) March 7, 2019
Talib had his best statistical season with the Jayhawks in the 2007 NCAA campaign. He finished his redshirt junior year with 5 interceptions, 66 total tackles, and two defensive touchdowns.
The Jayhawks had their most successful season in 2007. They had a gaudy 12-1 win-loss record that year. Eighth-ranked Kansas beat the fifth-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2007 Orange Bowl, 24-21.
Talib, who recorded a pick-six off Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor, won 2007 Orange Bowl MVP honors. He also became a Consensus First-Team All-American and earned his second consecutive First-Team All-Big 12 selection.
Finally, Talib also received the Jack Tatum Trophy from the Touchdown Club of Columbus as the nation’s best defensive back in 2007.
While Talib earned plenty of accolades in college, he was involved in several controversies. He was involved in a verbal tussle at a Fort Worth, TX bar in 2005.
Mangino then suspended Talib for the first two games of the 2006 NCAA campaign for undisclosed reasons.
Talib was also a passenger in a truck former Jayhawks wide receiver Mark Simmons drove in the spring of 2007. Simmons allegedly ran over 23-year-old Aubrey Gilbert, who reportedly pointed a gun at him and Talib outside a bar in Lawrence, KS.
Authorities didn’t file any charges against Talib and Simmons, per Corcoran.
Just three days after the Jayhawks’ victory in the 2007 Orange Bowl, Aqib Talib announced he would forego his final year of eligibility and declare for the 2008 NFL Draft.
Talib’s father Theodore Henry told KUSports.com’s Ryan Wood on January 8, 2008, that it was the “second-happiest day of my life” which ranked behind his youngest son’s birth.
Aqib Talib went on to become a five-time Pro Bowler in his memorable and sometimes controversial 12-year NFL career.
Pro Football Career
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Aqib Talib the 20th overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Shortly after the Bucs drafted Talib, he moved his father Theodore to Tampa Bay with him. Unfortunately, the latter developed health issues such as high blood pressure and sarcoidosis, a lung disorder.
Talib’s girlfriend at the time Gypsy Benitez grew concerned about Theodore’s health problems affecting Aqib’s job on the gridiron.
“His anger would boil over,” Benitez told Chadiha in 2014. “I think his father being ill was very hard for him to deal with.”
— AqibTalib21 (@AqibTalib21) April 25, 2019
When playing for the Buccaneers Talib was a far cry from the five-time Pro Bowler he later became with the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos.
According to Chadiha, Talib made headlines for the wrong reasons during his five-year tenure in Tampa Bay.
Among Talib’s controversies during his tenure with the Buccaneers included:
- Skirmishes with teammates
- Jail time for punching a taxi driver
- Indictment for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after fighting with his sister’s live-in boyfriend in 2011
Although Talib picked off 17 passes from 2008 to 2011, his erratic off-field behavior negated whatever accomplishments he had on the gridiron.
“I was putting myself in bad situations,” Talib told Chadiha in 2014. “I wasn’t thinking about the consequences. I would know I wasn’t supposed to be in a place, and I decided to go anyways.”
To compound matters, the NFL suspended Talib for the first four games of the 2012 NFL campaign for violating its banned substance policy.
Despite Talib’s bad reputation away from the football field, then-Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik told ESPN his teammates loved him.
Contrary to the public’s perception of Talib, he also put in the time for football when he was at home. Benitez told ESPN that she and their kids hardly got to spend time with him when he was playing in the NFL because he was always dissecting plays on film.
Talib inherited his voracious film study habits from five-time Pro Bowl Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber, per Chadiha.
Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano called Talib just as he and his family were about to buy a home in the Dallas, TX area several weeks after his four-game suspension. Schiano told Talib that Tampa Bay had traded him and a seventh-round draft choice to the New England Patriots.
During Talib’s five-year tenure with Tampa Bay from 2008 to 2012, the Bucs averaged barely seven wins per year. Talib never tasted postseason football during his time in Central Florida.
However, that all changed after he signed with the Patriots in the fall of 2012.
Former New York Jets defensive back Antonio Cromartie named Talib one of the NFL’s five best cornerbacks in an article he wrote for The Players’ Tribune in the fall of 2015.
Cromartie remembered a game featuring the New England Patriots against the New Orleans Saints in 2013.
The Patriots had their hands full against red-hot Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who had racked up four consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
Talib promptly shut Graham down. The latter failed to muster a single reception against New England. Graham finished the game with exactly zero receiving yards.
Cromartie mentioned in his article that defensive backs typically have a hard time covering tight ends like Graham because of their size and physicality.
On the other hand, linebackers usually find it hard to keep up with athletic tight ends because of their speed and agility.
Not Aqib Talib, though. Cromartie considered him the perfect cornerback in a man-to-man defensive scheme.
Not only was Talib tough, physical, and agile, but he was also instinctive. He had a great nose for the ball and knew what the offense was trying to do even before the snap.
Denver's Aqib Talib with the 103-yard pick six as the Broncos smash the Cowboys 42-17… pic.twitter.com/t4VQhcrA0K
— Sportsbet.com.au (@sportsbetcomau) September 18, 2017
Talib then put himself in a position where he could break up the pass, record the interception, or better yet – take the ball the other way for a defensive touchdown.
On that note, former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams lauded Talib for his first-rate ball-hawking abilities. He, too, named Aqib Talib one of the best NFL cornerbacks in an article he wrote for The Players’ Tribune in December 2017.
According to Adams, Talib’s unpredictability set him apart from other defensive backs. When a play called for him to become physical with the receiver, he’d do it.
In some instances, Talib kept a certain distance from speedier wide receivers so he could keep up with them.
He also had a knack for jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and then backing off suddenly, so he could match them stride for stride as they went on their assigned routes.
Long story short, Aqib Talib was a cornerback who knew how to pick his spots in the National Football League.
Former Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green shared Cromartie’s and Adam’s sentiments. Aqib Talib was in the upper echelon of cornerbacks during his playing days in the NFL. Green considered Talib “very underrated” in his The Players’ Tribune piece.
After Talib learned about his father’s death on September 12, 2013, he refused Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s orders to go to the bench, per ESPN.
Talib instead vented his pent-up emotions on the gridiron. He finished New England’s 13-10 triumph over the New York Jets with two interceptions, two pass deflections, and one forced fumble.
He told Chadiha in 2014 that he felt his dad’s presence on the football field that day.
Talib’s four interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery helped him earn the first of his five straight Pro Bowl berths and his lone Second-Team All-Pro nod following the 2013 NFL season.
The Patriots averaged nearly 13 wins per year during Talib’s two-year stay in New England. They never made it past the AFC Championship Game with Talib as one of their defensive backs.
The Denver Broncos signed Talib to a six-year, $57 million deal on March 11, 2014.
Talib’s pro football career reached unprecedented heights when he played in the Mile High City from 2014 to 2017.
He racked up 11 interceptions,183 combined tackles, six defensive touchdowns, and two forced fumbles during those four years. He made it to the Pro Bowl every year and earned First-Team All-Pro honors following the 2016 NFL season.
Denver averaged 10 wins per year from 2014 to 2017. The Broncos won their third Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, 24-10.
Aqib Talib finally earned his first and only Super Bowl ring.
— Sports News & Videos (@robinsportsnews) February 8, 2016
Talib married his long-time girlfriend Gypsy Benitez almost two months after Denver’s Super Bowl 50 win.
Dallas, TX police concluded Talib shot himself in his right leg in the summer of 2016. Consequently, he didn’t make the Broncos’ visit to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl 50 win.
Talib split his final three NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and Miami Dolphins. He made his retirement official on September 9, 2020.
Aqib Talib finished his 12-year pro football career with 35 interceptions, 462 combined tackles, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and 10 defensive touchdowns.
Talib earned approximately $72 million when he played in the National Football League from 2008 to 2019.
Aqib Talib and his wife Gypsy have two sons together: Jabril and Bari. Both of them also have one child each from previous relationships.
First game in the books! Hell of a game!!! Gus Johnson I appreciate you Unc! Week 3 it’s up!!! pic.twitter.com/TG5KEj52Fh
— AqibTalib21 (@AqibTalib21) September 19, 2021
Talib has become a prominent figure in sports media since retiring from the National Football League following the 2019 season.
Talib worked as a FOX Sports NFL analyst for two games during the 2020 NFL season. He returned to the FOX Sports booth the following year alongside Gus Johnson to analyze several games.
Talib has earned high marks for his work in the broadcast booth from experts and fans alike. He officially joined the Amazon desk this past summer to do Thursday Night Football pre-game, halftime, and postgame analysis beginning in the 2022 NFL season.
Dallas Clark!!! We Catchin’ Fades!!! pic.twitter.com/qSo0A9SgjP
— AqibTalib21 (@AqibTalib21) December 7, 2021
He also currently hosts the “Catchin’ Fades with Aqib Talib” podcast on the Volume Sports Network.