Tiki Barber
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Giants legend Tiki Barber opens up about his smile, Eli Manning 2.0 and why the city was absolute perfection. 

Tiki Barber retired from the NFL in 2006 as the New York Giants all-time leading rusher and receptions leader.

He’s a three-time Pro Bowler, First-Team All-Pro and was inducted into the Giants Ring of Honor.

On a beautiful fall Saturday in Westchester, NY, Tiki appeared at a meet-and-greet event sponsored by Acme Supermarkets and WFAN. Barber is currently the host of the Tiki and Tierney radio show on CBS Sports Radio and simulcast on CBS Sports Network.

CBS Sports Radio and WFAN are owned by the same parent company, Entercom.

Barber and New York, both during his playing career and post-football life, created a perfect scenario.

“I think because I smiled a lot. Honestly, I think a lot of it was actually my name. Kids could say it easy and was easy to remember. Once I got good, it worked. I love meeting people. I lived in the city … it ended up being a warm and engaging city. I loved it.”

Tiki and his twin brother Ronde joined a list of siblings to both play in the NFL, including the McCourty Twins, Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, Brian and Brandon Dawkins, etc.

The two combined for eight Pro Bowl appearances and four first-team All-Pro honors.

Ronde also won Super Bowl 37 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001.

“It’s unique. Also a blessing. You realize how hard it is to make it. We’re starting to actually see a bunch of them now, brothers in the NFL. Great to share it with him… it was cool. We both dreamed of this and it came to fruition which is awesome.”

The Barber twins have done tremendous things in the NFL. Although Tiki’s aspirations as a young kid weren’t always football…

“The conversation was like I want to be an astronaut,” Tiki says with a laugh. “We pushed each other. It worked and we both made it.”

With the benching of Eli Manning in Week 3, the “Danny Dimes” era in New York has begun. Tiki, along with his brother Ronde, was on the call for Daniel Jones’s NFL debut versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month.

Jones threw for 326 passing yards and two touchdowns (ran for two more), leading the Giants to their first victory of the season 24-22 over the Bucs in Tampa. They trailed 28-10 at halftime.

“I met him last summer and I was really impressed with his composure. The way he carried himself, his demeanor. It reminded me a lot of Eli. I felt like it was perfect. A lot of people weren’t fans of picking him. For me, it was like drafting ‘Eli 2.0’. He was a better athlete, bigger, faster, more athletic, so our offense could have more diversity to it. Being down there in Tampa, honestly, I think there were more Giants fans there… He did exactly what we expected to him.”

Everyone has an opinion on the Danny Dimes nickname. Chris Mad Dog Russo didn’t know it. Justin Tuck said since Jones’ mom calls him Daniel, he’ll do the same. Safety Markus Golden loves the nickname.

“I’ll call him Daniel. Danny Dimes is interesting. It’s fun. Someone should trademark it for him. He’s the kind of kid who likes to be Daniel, not Danny Dimes.”

The bar is set pretty high for Jones. He’s replacing the greatest Giants QB of all-time Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP, knocking out the New England Patriots, arguably the greatest dynasty in sports history, twice on the biggest stage.

Barber has no reservations about what Jones can accomplish as the signal-caller for Big Blue.

“It’s all about what he gets surrounded with. Eli had great teams around him. Both on the offensive skill positions side and especially on the defensive side. Strahan his first couple of years, Tuck and some of those other guys. Rushing opposing QBs, Tom Brady in particular in Super Bowls. If Dave Gettleman does a good job building both sides of his offense, Daniel Jones can be a Super Bowl QB. No doubt about that.”

The Giants drafted RB Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. He’s been compared to the modern-day Barry Sanders. He won the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year. He ran for 1307 rushing yards, 721 receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns (11 rushing and four receiving).

Barkley set numerous NFL and franchise records including the most rushing touchdowns, rushing yards and total touchdowns by a Giants rookie in history.

Barber wasn’t shy about giving praise from one New York Giants superstar RB to another.

“He’s a freak but it’s fun. First thing he said to me when I met him two years ago was ‘I’m gonna break all your records’. I said I hope so because that means good things are happening for the New York Giants. Physically, he’s abnormal. Big thighs. Big chest. Muscular. Even though he’s 235 lbs, he runs like he’s 190. Very rarely do you have a guy like that come across who plays that position. He’s fun and exciting to watch.”

In his post-football career, Barber has been busy. He has his daily radio show with Brandon Tierney, co-founded Thuzio (sports media and events company) and even took a stab at Broadway.

“I’m always interested in reinventing myself. Not turning down an opportunity…That was awesome. One of the most unique and fulfilling things I’ve ever done. The crowd would respond with this love that was awesome. A lot of work. I miss it.”

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