The selection of tight end Shannon Sharpe to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame brings to 22 the number of former Bronco players (and one owner) represented within INVESCO Field at Mile High, and Sharpe’s entry probably precedes by just one year his eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
If ever any player were a virtual lock for Canton honors, it is Sharpe.
There are seven tight ends in the Hall of Fame right now–Ozzie Newsome, Kellen Winslow, Jackie Smith, Mike Ditka, Dave Casper, John Mackey and Charley Sanders.
What each of those illustrious players has in common is that none of them has a single stat to match those of Shannon Sharpe.
His career recption total of 815 is higher than that of any of the others.
Ditto his 10,060 reception yards and his 62 career touchdowns.
But it is a team game, and the biggest stat of all is being a great player a leader on three Super Bowl teams, the back-to-back championship Bronco teams in 1997 and 1998, and one other crown while on sabbatical with the Baltimore Ravens, between his Bronco stints.
Just for good measure, Sharpe was named to the Pro Bowl eight times, and Charley Sanders comes the closest with seven, none of the others having more than five.
I remember when we drafted Sharpe, the first thing I noticed was that he caught so very many passes at Savannah State.
Big school or small, performance counts. They were trying to cover him there just as much as if he had been at the biggest school in the country, and Sharpe would not have caught all those passes if he had not had the ability to do so.
He was a locker room leader two ways, by an unflinching example of hard work, and also verbally, always quick to express his views and tell a teammate what he thought. Shannon would set things straight if he felt the need.
Sharpe’s work in the weight room is well documented.
But the little details are what separated him from others. When everyone else was eatling the team meal at our headquarters on a Wednesdsay or Thursday, Shannon was eating what he brought from home: broiled chicken, no skin, green vegetables, small portions. Very little variation. He told me if it was not boring, it probably was not very good for him.
He is the only player I have even seen on his hands and knees with one of those mini, hand-held vacuum cleaners, vacuuming out the bottom level, the shoe compartment, of his locker.
Neatness counts. Preparation is everything.
It is not uncommon even today for Sharpe to have a book of philosophy close at hand. He can hit you right between the eyes with blunt football talk one minute, and in the next quote a philosopher like Confucius or Fredrich Nietzsche.
There have been naturally great players, players upon whom greatness has been thrust by situation, and those who took what they had and just made themselves great players.
Shannon Sharpe took his ability and intellect and made himself a great player. He simply would not be denied, and he would not let his body deny him.
The Broncos have two world championship trophies in large part because of the contribution of Sharpe, a natural pass receiver who MADE himself a blocker good enough to anchor his end of the line in one of the greatest running games the NFL has ever seen.
He works just as hard preparing for his television work on CBS, and it shows on the air.
A great player and natural leader, Shannon Sharpe is a great addition to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, and they might just as well start working on that bronze statue in Canton as well.