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Geraldine Barber had no problem rooting for Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl and not just because one of her twin sons had played 16 seasons for the Buccaneers.
Her connection with the Bucs' head coach, Bruce Arians, goes back to their college days at Virginia Tech in the early 1970's.
"This whole week is about Bruce," she said in a phone interview from her Maryland home. "I don't want to do anything to take anything from the focus on him because he is so deserving."
Arians' wife, Christine, is another Tech alumna.
"Chris reminded me last year, when we were together at a game, that it has been 50 years since we met each other," said Geraldine, who now goes by Barber-Hale.
"Bruce was already [at Tech]. I believe this was right after Chris and Bruce had gotten married because they were long-time sweethearts. Before they had gotten married, Bruce and Tiki and Ronde's daddy, [J.B. Barber] were roommates and the first inter-racial teammates to be football roommates there.
"They got to be real good friends and then, when J.B. and I got married, I was taken into that friendship. Bruce and Chris were always there for me. When Tiki and Ronde were infants and were having problems with seizures, I could always count on Chris."
Geraldine later divorced from J.B. Barber and moved to Roanoke, where she raised her sons as a single mom.
"I didn't see them for years," Geraldine said of Bruce and Chris Arians. "We kept in touch but I didn't spend any time with them until I was at a [New York] Giants game and I think, at the time, Bruce was coaching with the Indianapolis Colts and they came to Giants Stadium.
"I was coming down to the back of the stadium with parents and guests and Bruce was headed to the visitors' dressing room and I heard somebody say 'G-e-r-a-l-d-i-n-e,' and I turned around and it was him. It was like seeing your long-lost brother.
"It was just an awesome feeling and we've been in touch with each other ever since then. It's been a wonderful friendship."
Ronde Barber lives in the Tampa area and has served as an analyst for Buccaneers' games, although he didn't have the call for the Super Bowl, where the Buccaneers, led by quarterback Tom Brady, defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9.
On a YouTube film session after the game, Ronde Barber referred to Arians as his "Uncle B.A," and they have played golf together.
Geraldine Barber noted that Ronde and Tiki Barber, collegiate stars at the University of Virginia, had vowed to end their professional careers with the teams that originally drafted them and that was the case, Ronde with Tampa Bay and Tiki with the New York Giants.
"I have a very special place in my heart for the Giants and for Tampa Bay," she said. "It's been 18 years since Tampa Bay has gotten back to that point and I'm so glad Bruce has taken them there. He's just as deserving as anyone.
"He's been dedicated to his craft ever since we got out of college. He has a Super Bowl ring as an assistant coach but this was his as a head coach and that's got to be so special."
-- Doug Doughty