The 1,000-watt smile and the carefully crafted clean cut image were undeniable.
But in recent years we have learned a darker side of Tiki Barber. The man who seemed to make all the right moves on the football field was fired from his cush $2 million per year job with NBC, then he cheated on his pregnant wife with a 23-year-old NBC intern and that whole situation got messy as you might expect. And who will soon forget the wrath Barber faced last month when he compared his plight, which included having to hide in his agents house with his girlfriend, to that of Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
But in an interesting twist, the former New York Giants running back told HBO recently that he battled depression for a year as a result of all the missteps since he left football. So the only way 36-year-old Barber can heal is if he returns to football.
"I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at something," Barber said HBO. "I know I'm going to be successful as a football player. I don't know why. The odds say 'No.' I'm 36 and I haven't played in four years. But I just know."
Barber went on to say during his lowest point, he would wake up in the mornings and then find himself spending a stretch of 10 hours just sitting on his couch. But after talking with some people he trusts, Barber decided several months ago to return to the playing career he left behind in 2006.
It wasn’t clear originally that Barber was hoping to battle depression. It just seemed that he longed to return to a place he was most successful.
What Barber likely will find is that football won’t be nearly as inviting as he might hope. After four years away from the game and being 36 in a young man’s game may be hard to overcome.
What Barber may find once he hits a training camp once the NFL lockout ends is that stress and rigors of the NFL won’t help heal his pain. It will only add to it.
Barber was one of the success stories when he walked away from the game four years ago, leaving with his body, mind and perfect smile intact. He played at a high level and then walked away from the game before it chased him out as it does so many others.
The problem Barber faced is once he was out in the real world, there were far fewer people patting him on the back. What he found is that smile and his ability to deliver in a two-minute interview didn’t carry over when he was in front of the camera full time and his personality had to carry the segment.
Sometimes there is no replacement for paying dues.
"I crafted this career, right?" he said. "And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It's hard to deal with."
Some information in this report was received from the Associated Press.