Despite the controversy Tiki Barber stirred during his ten-year NFL career, he’s still one of the best running backs in New York Giants football history.
Sure, fans of Big Blue will never forget his vocal criticisms of Michael Strahan and Tom Coughlin.
They also won’t forget Barber made headlines for ditching his pregnant wife for a former NBC intern.
Even though Barber had his share of shortcomings, he still had 10,449 rushing yards in his 10-year NFL career.
Barber also holds at least twenty-two Giants franchise records.
Let’s not forget he’s also a member of the New York Giants Ring of Honor.
Tiki Barber will forever go down in Giants franchise history as a great running back and a colorful character off the gridiron.
Atiim Kiambu “Tiki” Barber was born to parents J.B. and Geraldine in Roanoke, VA on April 7, 1975.
His twin brother Ronde is a former cornerback and safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Their father, James “J.B.” Barber, was a running back for the Virginia Tech Hokies from 1971 to 1973. He also played in the defunct World Football League.
Geraldine Barber also attended Virginia Tech and graduated with a degree in education.
According to The Los Angeles Times‘ J.A. Adande, Geraldine Barber went into labor when she was six months pregnant with her twin boys.
Her physicians gave her medicine to prevent their premature birth. However, she went into labor again after a month.
“They’ve always been impatient,” Geraldine Barber told Adande in 2003.
When she returned to the hospital, she was hooked up to various tubes for thirty days. She gave birth to her twin boys five weeks early.
J.B. Barber’s friend was a cultural exchange student from Africa who helped the couple name the boys.
The first twin was named Jamael Oronde which means “first-born son.” The second one was named Atiim Kiambu which means “fiery-tempered king.”
The couple divorced when the twins turned four years old. Geraldine Barber raised her sons from there on out.
She told the Daily Press’ Dave Johnson in 1994 she “was very hurt” by her ex-husband’s decision not to become involved in his sons’ lives.
Geraldine Barber worked in the finance department of the local Girl Scouts chapter in Roanoke.
As the boys grew older, Geraldine took on other night-shift jobs to supplement her income. She did transcriptions in an office. She also worked on inventory at supermarkets and warehouses, per Adande.
When the boys began playing sports, Geraldine wanted them to play on the same team because taking them to different practices wasn’t possible.
She also wanted them to finish what they started: she wasn’t going to pay her sons’ league fees with her hard-earned money for nothing.
For his part, Tiki Barber wanted to become an astronaut when he was a child, per The Roanoke Times’ Mark Berman.
He told Virgnia Tech’s official website in 1995 he has always been more reserved than his brother Ronde:
“I was very quiet and shy when I was small, but sports kind of forced me to come out of that.”
“If you do well in sports, everyone wants to talk to you, and that forces you to talk. Ronde was always a little more outgoing and that is definitely so now.”
Tiki Barber would eventually come out of his shell when he became a sports talk show host in his post-football life.
The twins attended Hidden Valley Middle School in Roanoke.
Tiki and his brother never pretended to be the other one while they were growing up:
“Everybody asks us if we’ve ever switched classes or girlfriends or something like that,” he told Johnson. “We never did.”
When the Barber twins reached the junior high level, Geraldine wanted to purchase braces for them. They had to subsist on hot dogs and beans for a long time so she could afford to pay for them.
When they were eighth-grade football players, they rode the bench.
Former Cave Spring head football coach Steve Spangler told The Roanoke Times‘ Robert Anderson in October 2006 his undefeated team was so strong the backups took the field a lot.
In fact, some of the backups even broke loose for 50-yard touchdown runs against Salem High School.
For his part, Tiki didn’t just excel on the gridiron.
He won three long jump state championships and a triple jump title during his high school days.
He also won a district title in wrestling.
Spangler spoke highly of the twins’ work ethic, per Anderson:
“They both had the fire in the belly. All you had to do was tell them you couldn’t do something. They had the desire and the work ethic.”
“They would go through a full track workout and then go do what UVa (University of Virginia) wanted them to do in the weight room.”
Spangler, who marveled at Tiki Barber’s versatility, even predicted the twins could wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday.
Whatever sport the twins played, Geraldine was in the stands cheering them on with her trademark Greg Norman-like straw hat with two pins showing pictures of Ronde and Tiki.
Tiki graduated from Cave Spring High School with a 4.0 average. He was named class valedictorian.
Tiki and his brother whittled down their college choices to the Michigan Wolverines, Penn State Nittany Lions, Clemson Tigers, and Virginia Cavaliers, per The Virginian-Pilot’s Frank Vehorn (via VT.edu).
“Clemson didn’t show us what we needed to see,” Ronde Barber told The Roanoke Times’ Doug Doughty (via VT.edu) in 1993. “I didn’t feel we were as important to Clemson as we were to Virginia.”
The boys dropped Clemson from their shortlist.
They had already made up their minds about committing to Virginia at that point. Then-Cavaliers assistant football coach Danny Wilmer was a big factor in their recruitment.
The Barber twins didn’t even bother to visit the University of Michigan. Tiki said it was “too cold,” per the Daily Press.
When the twins chose the University of Virginia, Geraldine gave them her blessing.
However, she had hoped they’d attend her alma mater Virginia Tech, which was closer to their home, Vehorn.
At the end of Tiki Barber’s high school football career with the Cave Spring Knights, he had more than 3,000 rushing yards.
SuperPrep Magazine named Barber to its 1993 All-America Team.
College Days With The Virginia Cavaliers
Tiki Barber may as well redshirted his true freshman year with the Virginia Cavaliers in 1993.
He had a paltry 41 rushing yards on 16 carries in the 1993 NCAA season.
Legendary Virginia Cavaliers head football coach George Welsh wished he redshirted Barber instead of wasting one year of his eligibility, per The Virginian-Pilot.
Things didn’t get any better for Tiki Barber in the 1994 NCAA season.
He was often at the receiving end of Welsh’s stinging remarks.
On the other hand, his brother Ronde, a redshirt freshman, drew praises and hugs on the sidelines from their head football coach.
Their football careers had gone in opposite directions at this point.
Tiki and his brother Ronde received a call from their dad J.B. after the Cavaliers’ game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons that year.
Tiki scored a touchdown in that game.
“He writes every now and then, but I really don’t know him,” he told Vehorn a year later. “We are pretty much estranged.”
Ronde told The Virginian-Pilot back then their father settled somewhere in the Oklahoma region.
His hunch was spot on.
J.B. Barber worked as a theology professor at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK several years later. He also worked as a pastor, chaplain, and author in that state.
He has since remarried and has a daughter named Christa and a son named Johnathan.
After their father reached out, Tiki Barber used Ronde’s success to motivate himself – he hit the weights hard so he could add muscle mass and increase his strength levels.
He was no longer a one-dimensional, speedy type of runner. He was becoming a more well-rounded running tailback.
— NCAA Football – Esp (@ncaafesp) June 7, 2013
Once Tiki Barber became a better running back, Welsh told Vehorn he reminded himself of Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith:
“He went from being a good outside runner to being a big-league tailback.”
“He is pretty clever, and I am not sure I have ever coached a running back quite like him before. Some of his moves are like those that (Dallas star Emmitt Smith) makes.”
Tiki Barber’s transformation on the gridiron was nothing short of spectacular.
He torched the Duke Blue Devils for 185 yards on the ground in a 44-30 win on October 14, 1995.
Barber’s scintillating performance elicited a special thanks from Welsh.
“I used to wonder why that man hated me so much,” he told Vehorn. “Ronde kept telling me that Coach Welsh was just trying to make me a better player, and now I can see that.”
He had 1,397 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns in twelve games in the 1995 NCAA season.
Barber broke Barry Word’s previous school record of 1,224 rushing yards in a single season.
He also became just the eighth Cavaliers player to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a season.
Behind Barber’s emergence, the Cavaliers won nine of thirteen games in 1995.
Eighteenth-ranked Virginia beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the 1995 Peach Bowl, 34-27.
Tiki and Ronde Barber look after each other on and off the gridiron.
North Carolina State Wolfpack fans heckled Ronde to no end during a game in 1995.
Tiki didn’t take it sitting down. Instead, he “boldly took on the hecklers,” per Vehorn
At this point in their football careers, the brothers both stood 5’10”. However, Tiki weighed 192 lbs. to Ronde’s 180 lbs.
Another way to distinguish them back then was Tiki’s glasses. Ronde didn’t wear any.
Geraldine Barber discovered she had breast cancer just before Tiki entered his senior year at the University of Virginia in 1996.
She told The Los Angeles times seven years later their roles shifted – the twins became her official caretakers.
“They never wanted me to think I was in the battle by myself,” she told Adande.
Geraldine Barber underwent surgery in January 2003. She checked out of the hospital the following day and then returned to work the day after.
Tiki Barber picked up where he left off in 1995.
He had 1,360 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in eleven games for the Cavaliers in his senior season in 1996.
Virginia went 7-5 that year and lost to the 19th-ranked Miami Hurricanes in the defunct Carquest Bowl (which later on became the Camping World Bowl) on December 27, 1996, 31-21.
Despite the loss, Barber earned ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year honors in 1996.
Tiki Barber would embark on a successful pro football career in the Big Apple and become one of the greatest running backs in New York Giants football history.
Pro Football Career
The New York Giants had an atrocious 6-10 win-loss record in Dan Reeves’ last year as head coach in the 1996 NFL season.
Consequently, they missed the postseason for the fifth time in the past seven years.
One of the reasons for the Giants’ ineptitude in 1996 was their moribund offense – their 242 points ranked 28th in the league.
Tiki Barber could help plug that gaping hole on offense.
The New York Giants made Barber the 36th overall pick of the 1997 NFL Draft.
The moment the Giants drafted him, he told his mother Geraldine she didn’t have to work anymore, per The Los Angeles Times.
Retirement made her restless. She began working for the County of Roanoke’s finance department and volunteered for the American Cancer Society after four months.
Back then, she had to go up and down the stairs to watch and record the twins’ games from two different television sets hooked up to her satellite dish.
Tiki Barber’s first three seasons in New York were nothing to crow about.
First-year Giants head coach Jim Fassel intended Barber to be a third-down running back in his rookie year in 1997.
When starter Rodney Hampton retired following the 1997 NFL campaign, Barber got the nod.
Barber’s mediocre play prompted Fassel to replace him with Gary Brown for the remainder of the 1998 NFL campaign.
While Barber missed just four games over a three-year stretch from 1997 to 1999, he had just three rushing touchdowns and never had more than 511 rushing yards in a season.
Barber’s punt return and receiving skills (he had 609 receiving yards in 1999 and six receiving touchdowns dating back to his rookie year) made him a more serviceable running back at that point in his pro football career.
Barber had 74 all-purpose yards in the Giants’ 34-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.
It was the only time Tiki Barber took the field for the Super Bowl in his 10-year NFL career.
Apr. 7/1975 – Former NFL RB for the New York Giants, Tiki Barber is born. 3x Pro-Bowl & 1x All-Pro. Career Stats: 10,449 Rushing Yards, 55 Rushing TDs, 5,183 Receiving Yards & 12 Receiving TDs. pic.twitter.com/jqIaM7innO
— Today In History (@TodayThatWas) April 7, 2020
After Barber signed a six-year contract extension with the Giants following the 2000 NFL season, his career took off.
He ran for at least 1,006 yards in six of his final seven seasons in the Big Apple.
The final three years of Tiki Barber’s NFL career were arguably his best from a statistical standpoint: during that span, he had 5,040 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns.
Barber’s 2,390 all-purpose yards in 2005 were the second-most in NFL history at the time.
To nobody’s surprise, he earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods.
The Giants averaged eight wins during that stretch and never made it past to the Wild Card round.
Tiki Barber retired from the National Football League at the age of thirty-one following the 2006 NFL season.
He explained his reason for retiring at the peak of his pro football career to The Roanoke Times’ Doug Doughty (via EliteSportsNY.com’s Ryan Honey) in April 2020:
“I was getting (the) crap beat out of me. The running back position hadn’t evolved into what it is now.”
“I was getting 400 touches a season and getting all beat up. I didn’t want to get crippled. I was durable, but I wasn’t a big guy.”
Barber also admitted to the Scoop B Radio Podcast (via GIANTSWIRE’s Dan Benton) that year his former head coach Tom Coughlin was a small part of the equation:
“I mean, Tom was such a small part of it. He was so hard on everybody and you felt unappreciated at times, but it was so much more than that.”
“Maybe he was the last little straw that made me walk away from the game, but physically I was getting beat up, man.”
Five years after hanging up his cleats, thirty-six-year-old Tiki Barber planned a comeback to the NFL
Nothing came out of the comeback attempt as no team was interested in signing him.
The New York #Giants All-Time Rushing Leaders
1. Tiki Barber-10,449
2. Rodney Hampton-6,897
3. Joe Morris-5,296
4. Brandon Jacobs-5,087
5. Alex Webster-4,538
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) July 4, 2021
Barber had 10,449 rushing yards and 55 rushing touchdowns on 2,217 carries in ten seasons with the New York Giants.
Barber also holds 22 Giants franchise records, including most rushing yards in a career (10,449), most rushing yards in a season (1,860), and most rushing yards in a game (234).
He earned more than $25 million in his NFL career.
While Barber was one of the best running backs in New York Giants football history, he stirred some controversy during his tenure with the team.
When teammate Michael Strahan turned down a seven-year, $58 million contract extension from the Giants in 2002, Barber dubbed him “greedy.”
It wouldn’t be the last time Tiki Barber made headlines.
Tiki Barber and his wife, the former Traci Lynn Johnson, have two daughters: Brooklyn, 5, and Teagan, 2.
Barber has a 16-year-old son A.J., 14-year-old son Chason, and eight-year-old twin daughters Ella and Riley with his ex-wife and college sweetheart Ginny Cha.
Barber reportedly left Cha for Johnson when the former was eight months pregnant with their twins in 2010.
Barber and Johnson apparently met at NBC where he worked as a broadcaster immediately after his retirement in 2006.
Johnson was a former NBC intern.
It came as no surprise Cha banned Barber from the delivery room when she gave birth to their twins.
Tiki and Ronde Barber were inducted into the Virginia High School Hall of Fame in 2006.
The twins gave their mother Geraldine a 50th Anniversary Corvette for her 50th birthday three years earlier.
The Virginia Cavaliers retired Tiki Barber’s No. 21 jersey during a home game against the Virginia Tech Hokies in November 2007.
Barber has appeared in numerous television programs, including “Iron Chef America,” “Chopped,” “Project Runway,” “Celebrity Family Feud,” “Cash Cab,” and “Knight Rider.”
Tiki Barber wrote his autobiography “Tiki: My Life And The Game Beyond” in 2007.
He also wrote a fitness book entitled “Tiki Barber’s Pure Hard Workout” a year later.
Tiki and Ronde Barber have co-authored nine illustrated children’s books.
Tiki Barber has several business ventures, including O Beverages LLC, Thuzio, and Grove Group Management.
He was inducted into the New York Giants Ring of Honor in October 2010.
Giants fans booed Barber during the ceremony mainly because of his vocal criticism of the team and the alleged affair with Johnson.
Barber is the co-host of the sports talk show “Tiki and Tierney” which airs on CBS Sports Radio and SiriusXM Radio.
He broke the news on his talk show the Wilpon family was going to sell the New York Mets in late 2019.
Barber also expressed his approval of the Odell Beckham, Jr. trade to the Cleveland Browns that year.
Tiki Barber made his Broadway debut in April 2019. He starred in the Tony Award-winning musical “Kinky Boots.”
According to The Roanoke Times, Barber first sang on a stage in New York in 1999 – his third year in the NFL.
When Barber moonlighted as a broadcaster during his pro football career, he enrolled in an acting class so he can project his voice on television.
He put the skill to good use in his newfound Broadway career.
Football great Tiki Barber has gone from the gridiron to the Great White Way. The former New York Giants running back is strapping on the sky-high red stiletto books to make his Broadway debut in the Tony award-winning musical “Kinky Boots.” pic.twitter.com/VS3VNXvcSf
— Audacy (@Audacy) December 11, 2018
Barber played the character of the factory worker Don in “Kinky Boots.” He replaced Daniel Sherman, went on a seven-week leave of absence.
Barber sang with an ensemble and danced in a group finale wearing six-inch stiletto heels.
He told Berman the whole Broadway experience was “surreal”:
“It’s been amazing. Broadway’s an institution – I’ve been a fan ever since I became a New Yorker. To be part of it, it’s surreal.”
“It’s something I didn’t think I’d ever get the opportunity to do.”
“I’ve had the acting bug for years – I just never really had opportunities do anything with it.”
Several months after Barber’s Broadway debut, he regularly woke up at four o’clock in the morning to train for the 2019 New York City Marathon.
Do you agree? pic.twitter.com/buS1qUoBfO
— Betting With The Barbers (@BettingwBarbers) December 13, 2021
Tiki Barber co-hosts the “Betting With The Barbers” podcast with his twin brother Ronde and Ron Kruck.