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A Sharpe player in the Hall

Walker Carey | Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The NFL season is upon us and that means NFL Sunday pregame shows are also upon us. While I have never been an avid viewer of any of the pregame shows, one will definitely catch my attention this season — that one is The NFL Today on CBS. The reason why I will follow that program is because of analyst Shannon Sharpe.

Shannon Sharpe was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 6 — a very deserving inductee who became one of the greatest tight ends of all-time during his career with the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens. To tell you the truth, I was not the biggest fan of Sharpe during his playing career. I obviously acknowledged his undeniable talent, but his trash talking, showboating and what I perceived as a very arrogant personality always put me off. I often put Shannon Sharpe into the same category that I place Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco — that category being very talented, but just as egotistical. My thoughts on Sharpe forever changed when he stepped to the podium on that Saturday night and delivered the most heartfelt and inspiring Hall of Fame speech in recent memory.

Throughout his speech, Sharpe showed that he was much more than just a Hall of Fame football player. I never thought humility would be a word I would use to describe the legendary tight end, but now that is the only word that comes to mind. Sharpe’s humility was never more evident than when he talked about his older brother Sterling. Sterling Sharpe was a standout receiver for the Green Bay Packers from 1988-1994, but unfortunately had his career cut short due to a serious neck injury.

When acknowledging his “hero,” Sharpe stated, “I’m the only player, of 267 men that [have] walked through this building to my left, that can honestly say this: I’m the only pro football player that’s in the Hall of Fame, and I’m the second best player in my own family.”

Shannon’s love for his brother was never as clear as when he said of him, “I never once lived in your shadow. I embraced it.”

Sharpe also went into great detail describing his rough upbringing. His grandparents raised him, his brother and his sister in a one-thousand square foot cinder block home with cement floors in Glenville, Ga. He talked about times when they would have to eat cold oatmeal, raccoon, possum, squirrel and turtle. He never used his upbringing as an excuse, but rather used it as a driving force to provide his grandmother with what she deserved.

In the most touching moment of speech, Sharpe described when he saw his late grandmother in her casket and said to her, “Granny, are you proud of your baby? Because everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve tried to please you.”

I never thought my opinion of Shannon Sharpe would change, but on that Saturday night, I began to recognize that Shannon Sharpe is not only a Hall of Fame football player, but he is also a Hall of Fame man.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Walker Carey at wcarey@nd.edu