Ronde and Tiki Barber haven't settled their sibling rivalry, and Marty Miller excels at a job he didn't want. LaTasha Colander Clark embodies grace, and Ticha Penicheiro schooled the boys on the playgrounds back in Portugal. Lou Wacker coached thousands while making even more friends, and Sean Casey takes nothing, especially himself, seriously.
Those were among the many takeaways from last weekend's Virginia Sports Hall of Fame induction events in Portsmouth.
As the Daily Press so kindly, and overzealously, reported, I was among this year's class. But as aspiring reporters learn on the first day of journalism class, media is rarely, if ever, the story. And such was absolutely the case here.
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A graduate of Roanoke's Cave Spring High, Ronde Barber was a three-time All-America cornerback at Virginia, where he and Tiki, his twin and the team's star tailback, led the Cavaliers to a share of the 1995 ACC title. But as good as Ronde was in college, he was far better in the NFL, forging a 16-year career that should land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
During his acceptance speech, Ronde playfully jabbed at Tiki, seated in the audience, for swiping his football thunder in high school and college. He spoke of patience and perseverance and ignoring those who said he was too small.
Talking to Ronde during the weekend, I was most struck by his respect and affection for Mike Tomlin, his former position coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is no coincidence, Ronde said, that his career-high 10 interceptions came during Tomlin's first season with the Bucs, 2001, and that his Super Bowl ring and three first-team, All-Pro honors also transpired on Tomlin's watch.
In between raucous cheers from a large Norfolk State contingent, Miller spoke eloquently and poignantly of arriving at the school nearly 50 years ago from his native Danville with $10 in his pocket and one change of clothes in his suitcase. He became the school's first baseball All-American and later coached the Spartans to 17 conference championships in 32 seasons.
Miller took over as the school's athletic director in 2005, but only because then-university president Marie McDemmond insisted. In 2011-12, NSU and Lehigh were the only two schools in the country to reach the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and advance in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Adding to the event's Hampton Roads flavor, Portsmouth native Colander Clark gave a moving tribute to her family and faith, the cornerstones of a sprinting career that included 14 ACC championships at North Carolina, a 4x200-meter relay world record and, most notably, 4x400 Olympic gold in 2000.
Colander Clark and her husband, Chris, live in Suffolk, are active in the community and have three adorable children.
"She's a great ambassador for our school," said Brian Bersticker, a North Carolina fundraiser and former Tar Heels basketball player from Virginia Beach who attended Saturday's induction.
As a James Madison University student, I saw Nancy Lieberman play point guard for Old Dominion and immediately considered her the gold standard for women's basketball passing and panache. That didn't change until I saw Penicheiro play for the Lady Monarchs.
Penicheiro led ODU to the 1997 NCAA title game, was the 1998 national player of the year and is the WNBA's career assists leader. She spoke of competing against boys, included her brother, in Portugal and of a chance encounter with ODU assistant coach Allison Greene that led to her immigrating to the United States. Penicheiro's gratitude to the U.S. and ODU were palpable.
Wacker has been enshrined in not one, not two but a remarkable three Virginia college sports halls of fame: Richmond, Hampden-Sydney and Emory & Henry. He was a football star for the Spiders, assistant football coach and head wrestling coach for the Tigers and head football coach and athletic director for the Wasps.
Emory & Henry supporters were ubiquitous in Portsmouth over the weekend, reflecting a coach who gave the school 23 years and 17 consecutive winning seasons before retiring in 2004. Virginia Hall of Fame officials asked inductees to limit their speeches to eight minutes, which, Wacker said slyly, corresponds exactly to his commute from home to the golf course.
So when his wife asked of his destination each day, Wacker told her, "Honey, I have to go work on my speech."
A former All-American at Richmond and all-star first baseman with the Cincinnati Reds, Casey didn't need to work on his speech. He is as natural an entertainer as he was a hitter — his career average over 12 Major League seasons (1997-2008) was .302, his postseason average .410.
Casey regaled the crowd of more than 300 with stories rooted in his lack of speed, calling himself a "one-tool player," and recounting this question from his Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
"Do you have polio?"
Sharing breakfast with his mom Sunday morning at the hotel, Casey was still smiling and relishing the Hall of Fame honor.
Laughs and tears. Family and friends. Unforgettable weekend.