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Twins to tackle University Lecture Series tonight

Ronde and Tiki Barber are twin NFL superstars, authors and philanthropists whose careers have recently rocketed in different directions. Tonight, they discuss their lives and careers at 7 in the Sun Dome as part of the University Lecture Series.

The football icons were born a month premature April 7, 1975, in Montgomery, VA. According to the Greater Talent Network Web site, the pair overcame health problems as infants to become distinguished athletes in multiple sports at Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Virginia.

Tiki and Ronde received both athletic and academic scholarships to the University of Virginia where they were teammates on and off the field. Ronde said they remained close through those early years.

“We didn’t even have separate bedrooms until maybe our second or third year of college,” he said. “I always had someone to sound my ideas off of.”

In the 1997 NFL draft, the twins went their separate ways for the first time.

“Everyone has to make that adjustment when they leave college and go into the NFL, but it was especially tough,” Ronde said.

For the first time in their lives, Ronde and Tiki wore opposing jerseys and temporarily left their brotherly love on the sidelines.

“It was delicate. We stopped fighting when we were about 15 because I broke my wrist one time (when) we were fighting. We knew we could hurt each other,” Tiki said.

On the field, however, the brothers were just two players on opposite sides of the ball.

“I always wanted to be successful, even when I was playing against him,” Ronde said. “If he got in the way, he got in the way.”

As the players ascended to NFL elite status, their careers began to diverge. Ronde earned a Super Bowl ring and became a veteran leader on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tiki broke records as a New York Giants’ running back, but also experimented with broadcasting on radio and television. After the 2006 season, Tiki swapped his NFL career for journalism.

“When it became physically tough for me to play the game, when my heart fell out of it, (my manager and I) made a conscious decision to execute a plan that we had been putting in place for many years,” Tiki said.

While he maintains connections to the world of sports, Tiki’s career has focused on politics as well as national and world news. He said his concern for world events was sparked after a visit to Israel.

“My eyes were opened to a different segment of the world,” Tiki said. “It kind of made me interested in things other than sports.”

Tiki serves as a correspondent for NBC’s The Today Show and as an analyst for NBC’s Football Night in America.

Ronde and Tiki have written three children’s books based on their experiences growing up. They published a young-adult novel last fall and plan to publish another this year, Ronde said.

“We are really promoting the concept of literacy in children and adults,” he said.

“It was the perfect time for us to tell our story – the things that made us who we are,” Tiki said.

The writing projects have connected the twins’ careers for the first time since college.

“Now that we get to work together again and do something that’s good (for us and society), it’s very fun and very fulfilling,” Tiki said.

In addition to advocating literacy, the Barbers participate in charity programs locally and nationally. Tiki said he is especially passionate about the Children’s Miracle Network, Fresh Air Fund and the Robin Hood Foundation. Ronde and his wife are involved in a variety of local charities in the Tampa area.

Tonight’s discussion will explain the brothers’ path from relative obscurity to stardom.

“A lot of people see that I have a very successful career in the NFL, but it didn’t start off that way,” Ronde said. “I was the guy that didn’t play at all my rookie year.”

In a night of motivation and inspiration, the only problem is whose name will appear first on the Sun Dome marquee.

“‘Ronde and Tiki’ doesn’t sound right, ‘Tiki and Ronde’ sounds perfect,” Tiki said.

But in a city where Ronde is a star, he thinks they should make an exception.

“(Tampa) is probably the only place in the country – because Tiki is wildly popular – that my name can go first,” Ronde said.

Tiki’s rebuttal: “My name will always come first because I am the more popular, less-talented twin.”