replaced Fassel in 2004, Ingram, the incoming running backs coach, made it his
mission to work with Barber to solve the problem. "'The ball is your
friend,'" a smiling Barber quotes him as saying. "Coach Ingram brought
an awareness of the ball. My first meeting with him, his first question was,
'How strong are you?' I was like, 'I don't know. I don't really work out upper
body.' Ingram told me I needed to get stronger. So I started my off-season
workout program with Joe Carini, and Coach Ingram had me carry the ball with me
everywhere, and always high and tight, high and tight. If I'm in the stadium,
on the treadmill, walking to the practice field, high and tight."
That was just the
first part of the fix. The second required Barber to change his running style,
from swinging his arm (and the ball) out to balance his body during
cutbacks--his method since age 12--to tucking the ball in, high and tight, of
course. "When you get in trouble, run with your legs," Ingram told him.
"Stop trying to juke people, just f---ing run through them. Take an angle
and run through the contact."
Barber rushed for 1,860 yards, 1,000 of them after contact, according to Giants
coaches. He fumbled just once. "He bought into our technique
wholeheartedly," says Coughlin. "It's much harder than it sounds, to
change your style of running when you have been doing it one way since you were
a child. Now Tiki is so well-positioned when he makes his final move that he is
able to explode into his tacklers."
Barber steers the
Mercedes into the garage beneath his apartment building, parks in the driveway
and leaves the key in the ignition for the valet. He grabs the ham from the
backseat and swings it up under his arm, high and tight.
In his apartment
he greets his sons--four-year-old AJ (abbreviated from Atiim Kiambu Jr.) and
two-year-old Chason--who sit at a little metal table eating chicken nuggets as
their mother, Ginny, 30, monitors their progress.
Tiki stands at
the counter, sorts through the mail and flips through People magazine's Sexiest
Man Alive issue. Tiki and Ronde are on page 150.
"How does it
feel to be married to one of the sexiest men alive?" Ginny is asked.
She smiles and
says, "It just sort of confirms what I already knew." She and Tiki have
been married since 1999.
But it is another
appearance in the magazine that may be more telling: a spread advertisement for
Cadillac inside the front cover. Tiki Barber is behind the wheel of a new
Escalade over the quotation, "Every day is an opportunity disguised as a
challenge." What most fans and reporters don't realize is that Barber's
retirement will make him forgo most of a vast endorsement income. He has deals
with Cadillac, Johnston and Murphy shoes, PowerBar, Reebok, Dish Network, Foot
Locker, Steiner Sports Memorabilia, McDonald's and the watchmaker Audemars
Piguet. His endorsement income, says his manager, Lepselter, is roughly
equivalent to his $4.5 million annual football salary. "When I become a
journalist," Barber explains, "in January or February, whenever our
seasons ends, I'll have to be impartial. For instance, I have a deal with
Cadillac that says I can't say negative things about Cadillac. So if I were
doing the news and a thousand Cadillacs started rolling over, then I would have
to be critical of them. So it would breach my contract. That all has to go
It will be worth
it, Barber believes, because becoming a television journalist has been his
long-held dream. When asked who his hero is, he thinks for a while, and you
expect him to come up with a football player, maybe Brown or Sanders. He
finally settles on Matt Lauer. "No matter the situation," Barber says,
"he is professional, polished and intelligent."