August 07, 2011
This year's Hall of Fame inductions seemed to be most about two things — the determination it takes to get to the top, and the family you need to help you get and stay there. In the case of tight end Shannon Sharpe, both factors played very well in his induction speech. Sharpe first talked about the odds he was up against.
"When I left my grandmother's home in 1986, headed to Savannah State with two brown grocery bags filled with my belongings, nothing was going to keep me from realizing my dreams," he said. "When people told me I wasn't going to make it, I listened to the one person who told me I was: me. You may not know this, but I was never supposed to be a Hall of Fame tight end or any kind of tight end, or even a Hall of Fame player. I'm here today for a lot of reasons. Some have everything to do with me. Some have absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with the kindness and patience of all the people that guided me through my life."
Then, a bit later in his speech, he turned his focus to his brother, Sterling. The elder Sharpe was a great receiver for the Green Bay Packers from 1988 through 1994 before injuries derailed his career. Had Sterling Sharpe stayed in the league for a few more seasons, there's little doubt he'd be with his brother in the Hall — he missed Green Bay's mid-90s era of greatness, didn't have the optimal version of Brett Favre(notes), and would have been the perfect receiver for the evolved version of Mike Holmgren's offense. In his last season, he led the NFL with 18 touchdown catches, which gives you an idea of how much talent and potential he was forced to leave on the table. In just seven seasons, he caught 595 passes for 8,134 yards and 65 touchdowns. And in the most cruel irony, he started every game of his career.
Sterling's little brother wasn't going to forget.
My big brother, Sterling … I'm the only player of 267 men that's 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 the second best player in my own family.
If fate had dealt you a different hand, there is no question in my mind we would have been the first brothers to be elected to the Hall of Fame. The 44 men and women that I thanked and congratulated earlier for giving me and bestowing this prestigious honor upon me, all I do is ask all I can do is ask, and the most humblest way I know how, is that the next time you go into that room or you start making a list, look at Sterling Sharpe's accomplishments.
For a seven-year period of the guys that are in the Hall of Fame at the receiver position, and the guys that have the potential to be in this building. That's all I ask. The next time you go in that room, you think about Sterling Sharpe's numbers for seven years. That's all I ask.
Sterling, you are my hero, my father figure, my role model. You taught me everything I know about sports and a lot about life. I never once lived in your shadow. I embraced it.
Watching Sterling's face while his brother paid tribute to him is what the Hall of Fame is all about. It was a absolutely wonderful moment, and it clinched Sharpe's speech as one of the best we've yet seen in Canton.
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