Shannon Sharpe, who was named to the Pro Bowl seven times as a Denver Bronco and helped the club to two Super Bowl victories, was elected as the 22nd member of the Broncos’ Ring of Fame, it was announced Tuesday.
He’s the first player to be inducted since Terrell Davis in 2007. The ceremony will take place on Sunday, Sept. 20, at halftime of the Broncos’ home opener against the Cleveland Browns at INVESCO Field at Mile High.
Sharpe, who played 12 seasons for Denver from 1990-99 and 2002-03, tied a Broncos franchise record with his seven consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 1992-98 while becoming the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end. Sharpe also was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection by the Associated Press while a member of the Broncos.
In 172 career regular-season games (139 starts) with Denver, Sharpe registered the second-most receptions (675), receiving yards (8,439) and receiving touchdowns (55) by a player in club annals, trailing only wide receiver Rod Smith. Selected by the Broncos in the seventh round (192nd overall) of the 1990 NFL Draft from Savannah State University, Sharpe totaled 18 100-yard receiving games (17 regular season, 1 postseason) as a Bronco that tie for the third most by a player in franchise history.
Those kind of numbers are the reason why many say Sharpe revolutionized the tight end position in the NFL.
“I think the thing is everybody wanted that guy that was going to be a matchup nightmare,” Sharpe said. “He was going to be two things – too fast for linebackers and too physical for a safety or a corner. When I came into the league, basically you wanted that extra offensive linemen. Everybody wanted to run the football. You get a guy 6-3, 280 or 290 and if he caught a couple of passes that was fine and good. Then all of the sudden when Dan Reeves used me at H-back, motioned me out, lined me up in the slot, put me out wide – all of the sudden teams said, ‘We have to get us one of those Shannon Sharpes.’”
Sharpe also played two seasons with Baltimore from 2000-01, earning the third Super Bowl ring of his career during the 2000 campaign and his eighth trip to the Pro Bowl in 2001 with the Ravens.
For his 14-year NFL career, Sharpe played 204 career regular-season games (169 starts) and had 815 receptions for 10,060 yards (12.3 avg.) with 62 touchdowns. He currently ranks second to only the Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez (1997-Pres.) in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history.
“It makes me feel good when I see these young guys now,” Sharpe said. “They walk up to me and say, ‘I followed your career, and I want to be the type of player that you were.’ Obviously it makes you feel good – it makes you feel old, but it makes you feel good.”
An interesting tidbit: Sharpe owns more receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, Super Bowl wins and Pro Bowl selections than any of the seven tight ends enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He was named the first-team tight end on the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team as chosen by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee members.
A finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009, Sharpe certainly has a chance to be a finalist again this season. He said it would be an honor to become the eighth tight end to be enshrined in Canton.
“I remember Ozzie (Newsome), Kellen Winslow, Dave Casper and I caught the tail end of Jackie Smith’s career when he was in Dallas. The others I didn’t get the opportunity to see play but I heard about them – (Mike) Ditka, John Mackey and Charlie Sanders. It is an honor to all of a sudden be mentioned with them and be in their class. You feel like what you’ve done has been validated – kind of like what those guys did in their time.”
The Broncos’ Ring of Fame was created in 1984 by team owner Pat Bowlen to honor former players and administrators who played significant roles in the franchise’s history. The Ring of Fame is displayed on the Level 5 façade of INVESCO Field at Mile High.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com