Gene Collier: Broncos CB Aqib Talib writes a script his early grade teachers would not believe
February 3, 2016 12:00 AM
Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images
Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21), at Super Bowl media day, is attempting to write one more golden script.
By Gene Collier / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — His early writings did not exactly inspire the critics, who weren’t content to merely dismiss its soulful truth.
I mean he got punished.
But he laughed about it Tuesday, 20-something years later, because sometimes validation is just plain funny.
“I was in the NFL when I was about 6 years old,” Aqib Talib remembers about the daydreams that inspired his prose. “I used to be Deion [Sanders]. I used to be [Michael] Irvin. We used to write papers — I got in trouble one time, fourth grade ... fifth grade, one of those grades. We had to write a little, one-page thing on what we were gonna be when we grow up, so I put, ‘I’m gonna be an NFL player.’
“So my teacher told me, ‘Seriously now. We’re writing about really serious jobs.’ So I said, ‘Just cause you’re not that talented and you’re not goin’ to the NFL, that don’t mean I ain’t goin.’ Got me a little in-school suspension for that. I kind of talked back to her I guess. She pulled me into the office. I’ll never forget it. And then I said it again, ‘Just ‘cause you’re not goin’ to the NFL don’t mean I’m not goin’.”
Goin’ right to the top, it turns out.
Talib is playing in the Super Bowl Sunday, the 50th Super Bowl, having pulled the Denver Broncos here with him. No hype, just fact.
Not only would Peyton Manning’s last roundup already be fading into history without this All-Pro corner who was born in Cleveland and raised in Texas, but Denver never would have survived the Steelers Jan. 17 without him, either. No hype, just math.
It was Talib who broke up the Ben Roethlisberger pass that appeared to have been delivered perfectly to Markus Wheaton at the front of the end zone in that first quarter. At the Broncos 32 on their second possession, the Steelers did what they always do on fourth-and-1 — threw it deep. But Talib arrived in Wheaton’s machinery just as he was about to pull in a touchdown pass, and Denver took over.
Trying to expand a 10-9 halftime lead, Ben whipped a strike to Martavis Bryant at the pylon on third-and-5 from the Denver 10, but Talib destroyed that missile as well.
The Steelers managed a field goal in that sequence, but Talib essentially had swiped 11 points from them on those two plays.
They lost by seven.
“No, it was definitely a team effort,” he corrected. “[Bradley] Roby with the caused fumble [on Fitz Toussaint], D. Ware with the fumble recovery. Peyton takin’ the guys to a touchdown at the end, and a bunch of special-teams plays. I remember those plays against Wheaton and Bryant, but there were a bunch of big plays.”
Seven days later, was there a bigger one than the Aqib Talib tip of Tom Brady’s 2-point conversion pass as New England tried desperately to tie the AFC title game, the one that fell into Roby’s arms one second later?
No, there was not.
A long picket fence of big plays are the high gloss landmarks of Talib’s career. His eight touchdowns on interception returns are the most in the NFL since he arrived in the league out of Kansas in 2008. Stardom had long appeared his destiny, except in those moments when he seemed intent on losing control of it, and there were more than one.
At the league’s rookie symposium in 2008, the Roger Goodell-initiated seminar designed to teach college kids how to behave as professionals, Talib got into a fight with fellow Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Cory Boyd. A year later he spent a night in the Pinellas County jail on a battery charge. A year after that he got charged with a felony, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, for allegedly firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend. Charges eventually were dropped.
He probably got as close to being tossed out of the game as he was to dominating it.
“I got older,” is mostly what Talib says about his apparent stabilization. “The same way everybody else changes. You know, you get older. You go through stuff. You live and you learn, man. You grow better as a professional.”
In order to grow into a Super Bowl champion, Talib along with the NFL’s top-rated defense will have to withstand what he figures is the greatest challenge yet, a Carolina Panthers offense so balanced and dynamic that fine defenses such as Seattle’s and Arizona’s were torn to tatters by it.
“Hopefully, we’re different than those guys; hopefully, we don’t give up 30 [or, like the Cardinals, nearly 50],” Talib said. “I don’t know how we’ll be different, but, hopefully, we can be.”
If I were Aqib, I would sit down and write a little one-pager about that. Those tend to be pretty persuasive.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @genecollier.
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