Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Favorite Ronde Barber memory? Not in football

My favorite Ronde Barber moment?
No, not his 2002 NFC championship clinching interception for a TD against my Philadelphia Eagles that sent the Bucs to the Super Bowl.
Nor his two INTs for TDs against the Eagles again in that 2006 regular season game won by the Bucs on a last-second 62-yard field goal at the RayJay.
My favorite moment and memory of the Bucs nonpareil cornerback who retired Wednesday after a 16-year career happened on an offseason plane bound for Columbus, Ohio.
I was flying up for a wedding and noticed this fit-looking fellow a few seats away.
Ronde Barber?
Can't be.
Then it hit me.
We were both going to the same wedding.
Greg Bellisari's wedding.
I had coached Greg in T-ball many moons ago in Boca Raton, followed him in high school, then later at Ohio State and remained good friends with his family.
He made the Bucs as a rookie free agent at middle linebacker, backing up Hardy Nickerson and playing special teams for one season in 1997.
His best friend? Another rookie, Ronde Barber.
Anyway, I took a taxi from Port Columbus Airport to the church and who should arrive about the same time, but Greg's former teammate.
We finally met during the reception and joked about the coincidence, small world and all that.
I flew back to Tampa the next day.
Greg is now an orthopedic surgeon in Columbus and his friendship with Ronde is as strong as ever.
How strong?
Ronde is godfather to one of Greg and Mary Bellisari's four children.

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