NFL Nation: Shannon Sharpe

PHOENIX -- Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis was not among those who got the life-changing news Saturday that is a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Davis was a modern-era finalist for the first time this year, in this his ninth year of eligibility. However, he did not make the first reduction Saturday from 15 modern-era finalists to 10.

The 10 were later trimmed to five -- running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown, defensive end Charles Haley, linebacker Junior Seau and guard Will Shields -- and those five each received the required 80 percent approval from the Hall of Fame's 46-member Board of Selectors to be in the Hall’s Class of ’15.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Davis
AP Photo/Ed ReinkeTerrell Davis proved to be a postseason force for the Broncos, averaging 142.5 yards rushing per game.
All five deserving to be sure, but it means the Broncos, as one of just four franchises to have played in seven Super Bowls, are certainly still vastly under-represented in the Hall of Fame by any objective measure. And they would still be even if Davis was elected.

They have just four Hall of Famers who played either a substantial part of their careers or all of their careers with the team -- John Elway, Floyd Little, Shannon Sharpe and Gary Zimmerman. And just two of those Hall of Famers -- Elway and Sharpe -- played in more than one Super Bowl for a team that has been to more title games in the Super Bowl era than 28 other franchises.

So, do I think Davis deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Of course.

Do I think he will eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame? I do. It just may not be at the pace either he or his vast legion of supporters would like.

Yes, Davis did play 78 regular-season games in an injury-shortened career. But there are already six running backs in the Hall of Fame who played fewer games than that and the rest of his body of work positions him as one of the best of the Super Bowl era in the biggest moments.

Davis’ 97.5 yards rushing per game in the regular season is the fourth-highest total in league history among running backs who had rushing attempts in at least 75 games, while his 142.5 yards rushing per game in the postseason is the highest average per game in league history for running backs who had rushing attempts in at least five playoff games. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry in the postseason and his team won seven consecutive postseason games in which he rushed for at least 100 yards.

Overall his teams won 91.7 percent of regular-season and postseason games combined when he rushed for at least 100 yards.

And the only two players in league history to average more than 100 yards rushing per game over their careers in regular-season and postseason games combined are Davis and Jim Brown.

The two players in league history who have won the rushing title and the Super Bowl in the same season are Davis and Emmitt Smith. And 12 players have won the league MVP award and the Super Bowl MVP award over the course of their careers and just three of the 12 are not quarterbacks -- Davis, Smith and Marcus Allen.

So, glance at those sentences and see the company Davis keeps, see the Hall of Famers Brown, Allen and Smith. It’s why it may not be as quick as folks want it, may not be without the sometimes arduous march of Hall of Fame time.

But it’s certainly why, in the end, Davis deserves to wear a gold jacket.

NFLN survey/most respected: Cowboys

January, 16, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- With all that Peyton Manning has accomplished in his career with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, there is no doubt why he is the most respected player in the NFL, according to an anonymous survey of 320 players conducted by ESPN.

Closer to home, there is no doubt Jason Witten is the Dallas Cowboys' most respected player.

Witten earned five votes in the league tally. DeMarcus Ware earned three.

In 11 seasons, Witten is the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver. He is second to Michael Irvin in receiving yards in franchise history. Only Tony Gonzalez has more catches as a tight end in NFL history. By next season he should pass Shannon Sharpe for second place in most yards all-time by a tight end. He set a record for catches in a season by a tight end with 110 in 2012. He has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times. He could make his ninth trip depending on the outcome of Sunday's conference title games.

With Witten, however, it is more than just numbers. It is physical and mental toughness. It is dedication. It is a belief in doing things the right way. He has missed only one game in his career despite numerous injuries, including a ruptured spleen in 2012. He does not miss offseason workouts.

"He's a great football player," coach Jason Garrett said after the season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. "He's the best tight end in football and has been for 10 years. He's just a helluva player, as special a guy as I've ever been around. He just is a unique individual. It's no surprise to me or any of us that he played as well as he did in this big game for us. That's what he's done his whole life. He's a great example to his teammates, a great example to his coaches about how to do things and I love him.

"I love him to death. He just does things the right way. He puts more into this than anybody I know. His commitment is as strong as anybody' and it's just disappointing for him. Again, he can walk out of the locker room with his head high and shoulders back because he does [it] the right way and he's done it the right way for a long time. He's going to be a Hall of Fame player and he's a Hall of Fame individual as well."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the free agency season of 2004, then-Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan wanted leadership, experience and some playoff chops in the locker room.

So, Shanahan traded for Champ Bailey and, much like John Elway did last year with Peyton Manning, Shanahan took a chance on a guy coming off neck surgery -- a guy named John Lynch.

Lynch, who played 11 seasons in Tampa Bay and the final four years of his career with the Broncos, was the only player with Broncos ties to make the cut for the final 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2014.

The 15 modern-era finalists will be trimmed at the meeting of the Hall's Board of Selectors the day before the Super Bowl.

Former Broncos linebacker Karl Mecklenberg, former Broncos safety Steve Atwater and former Broncos running back Terrell Davis made the cut to the 25 semifinalists, but none of the three were chosen as finalists.

The Broncos, with four Hall of Famers -- John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Floyd Little and Shannon Sharpe -- continue to be under-represented in the Hall for the team's success level.

They have six Super Bowl appearances as an organization, yet just the four Hall of Famers. Davis, Atwater and Mecklenberg remain on the modern-era ballot.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- From Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe to Desmond Clark to Dwayne Carswell to Jeb Putzier to Tony Scheffler to Daniel Graham, the tight end always had a prominent role in the Denver Broncos’ offense during Mike Shanahan’s 14-year tenure as the team’s head coach.

And when Shanahan brings the Washington Redskins to Denver this weekend he will bring an emerging player at the position in rookie Jordan Reed. Reed was taken in the third round -- 85th overall -- this past April because Shanahan saw the potential of an impact pass catcher.

Some personnel folks in the league believed Reed may have a difficult time transitioning into a full slate of work as an NFL tight end, at least initially at 6-foot-2 1/2 and 236 pounds at the scouting combine last February. Shanahan said when the Redskins looked at Reed before the draft they “felt we had a guy that was very special catching the football, very special in and out of breaks, more like a wide receiver than a tight end’’ and that the question was whether or not Reed would be able to hold up in a blocking role.

But when the Redskins put him in the offense they then believed they had a player who could function as a blocker. Jordan is just 23, having left Florida after his junior season.

He has become a bigger part of the Redskins offense as the weeks have gone by, with this past Sunday’s effort against the Bears being his breakout: nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos have had their issues at times this season with opposing tight ends, something that carried over from last season.

Linebacker Wesley Woodyard's neck injury, which has has kept him out of the past two games, hasn’t helped matters. Because of Reed’s athleticism the Broncos will have to consider matching a safety on him. Reed’s routes aren’t that of a big man. He is sharp in and out of his cuts and his footwork along the boundary is that of a wideout.

Reed, who arrived to Florida as a quarterback and who rushed for five touchdowns and threw for three more as a freshman, has a good feel for where the soft spots are in zone coverages.

In seven games opposing tight ends have 43 catches against the Broncos for 568 yards -- that’s 13.2 yards per catch -- led by Jason Witten's 121 yards on seven catches in Dallas. The Broncos have limited the group to two touchdowns, one by Witten and one by the Colts’ Coby Fleener this past Sunday, but Reed will certainly be on the radar this week.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Ndamukong Suh took a dive into a pool on "Splash." And he went on a failed blind date on "The Choice." Suh’s latest turn at television had nothing to do with him, though. Instead, it was all about "Saturday Night Live."

Comedian Jay Pharoah mentioned Suh during part of his impersonation of Shannon Sharpe on last weekend’s “Weekend Update” sketch on SNL. Suh said he hasn’t seen it.

"I think everything is big-time if you’re making 'Saturday Night Live,'" Suh said. "They cover a lot of spaces. But actually I just heard about it. Friends have told me about it, but I haven’t seen it, so I have no clue."

Here’s what Suh missed.

Seth Meyers set Pharoah-as-Sharpe up by struggling to pronounce Suh’s first name. Then Meyers asked about Suh’s fine.

"Listen, that’s nothing. $100,000 is just a kiss on the wrist for Ndamukong," Pharoah-as-Sharpe said. "I think an appropriate penalty for Ndamukong, at this moment, right now, currently, while we’re sitting here, the two of us, sharing breath, the NFL should burn his house down.

"Seth, Seth, Seth, Seeethhhh Seth. Let me put it this way. It would be easier for me to have a baby. And that baby be a walrus. And I raise that walrus to grow up and ride a bike. And that walrus to win the Tour de France than Ndamukong Suh to care about a hundred grand."

As far as whether Suh would ever contemplate doing a show like SNL -- other athletes have done it in the past -- it doesn’t seem likely.

“No, I don’t like being in the media’s eye,” said Suh, now a reality-TV veteran. “Once I’m done playing, I’m sitting in some quiet backwoods.”

Tony Gonzalez by the numbers

March, 12, 2013
Tony Gonzalez, who said multiple times he was 95 percent sure he would retire after last season, showed that numbers don’t always tell the whole story Tuesday when he said he was returning to the Atlanta Falcons next season.

But I still trust numbers, especially when they come from ESPN Stats & Information. They’ve got a handy file on Gonzalez and all his numbers. So, on this day when Atlanta fans are celebrating, let’s take a look at some of the numbers on Gonzalez.
  • His 13 Pro Bowls are tied for the second most in history. Only Bruce Matthews (14) has been to more Pro Bowls.
  • Gonzalez is the all-time leader in receptions by a tight end with 1,242. Shannon Sharpe (815) is second.
  • Gonzalez is the all-time leader in receiving yards by a tight end with 14,268. Sharpe is second with 10,060.
  • Gonzalez is the all-time leader in receiving touchdowns by a tight end with 103. Antonio Gates is second with 83.
  • Gonzalez still played at a high level last season. He ranked second among tight ends with 93 receptions.
  • Gonzalez will get a chance to build on his lead for regular-season starts by an active player. He has 238 career starts. Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber is second with 232.
  • Here’s a record Gonzalez, who turned 37 in February, should have no problem breaking. The only tight end to have at least 20 catches at age 37 or older was Wesley Walls with 20 catches in 2003.
  • We’ll close it out with an amazing stat. Gonzalez had 27 receptions with no drops on throws of 10 yards or more last season. Since joining the Falcons in 2009, Gonzalez has had only one drop on those throws while making 86 receptions.

Tony Gonzalez and what might have been

January, 22, 2013
With Tony Gonzalez leaning toward retirement after 16 NFL seasons and 1,242 receptions, I turned back the clock in my mind to 1997, the year San Francisco tried to draft the tight end from California.

The 49ers were in a wheeling and dealing mode in that 1997 draft. They came away with three players -- Jim Druckenmiller, Marc Edwards and Greg Clark -- after trading away all picks in the fourth through seventh rounds.

"While they rated [Jim] Druckenmiller as the best player available at the 26th pick, the 49ers tried to trade up for Miami's No. 15 in order to take Cal tight end Tony Gonzalez," John Crumpacker wrote at the time in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Alas, Kansas City moved up to 13 in a trade with Houston and tabbed the Golden Bear."

Alas, indeed.

Druckenmiller would play in six NFL games, starting one. Edwards, a fullback the team envisioned in the Tom Rathman mold, started 82 of the 134 regular-season games he played. Clark, a tight end, started 39 of the 55 games he played.

As for Gonzalez? He has 237 starts in 254 games and ranks second to Jerry Rice on the NFL's list for all-time receptions. His total for receptions is 50 percent greater than the career total for any tight end. Shannon Sharpe is second with 815 receptions.

The chart ranks 1997 draft choices by most Pro Bowl appearances. Two NFC West players, Walter Jones and Orlando Pace, made the list. Also in 1997, the Arizona Cardinals drafted cornerback Tommy Knight with the ninth overall choice.

Reflecting on Tony Gonzalez

January, 21, 2013

ATLANTA -- If Sunday really was the end of the road for Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, and he sure made it sound like he’s about to retire, it’s time for some reflection.

At just about every other position, you can sit and argue for days, weeks, months or years about who is the best ever. And usually you can’t even come to a universal agreement.

But that’s not the case with Gonzalez. When you talk about the greatest tight end ever, the conversation starts and ends with Gonzalez.

Just on the off chance you still need some convincing, let’s turn to ESPN Stats & Information to show you why:
  • Gonzalez has the most receptions (1,242) ever by a tight end. Shannon Sharpe is second with 815. Gonzalez is second in receptions by any player, trailing only Jerry Rice (1,549).
  • Gonzalez has more receiving yards (14,268) than any tight end. Sharpe is second with 10,060. Gonzalez ranks seventh on the all-time list for receiving yards.
  • His 103 receiving touchdowns are the most ever for a tight end. Antonio Gates is next with 83. Gonzalez is sixth among all NFL players in history in receiving touchdowns.
  • Gonzalez was selected to his 13th Pro Bowl this season. Only Bruce Matthews (14) had more Pro Bowl selections.
  • Gonzalez was selected first-team All-Pro six times.

If this really is the end, there’s still one more honor coming for Gonzalez. It will come in five years when he will be a certain first-ballot selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe has never been one to hold his tongue. Now an NFL analyst for CBS, Sharpe had a lot to say after New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick shunned the network for a postgame interview following a 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

"There is something to be said about being gracious in defeat," Sharpe said. “We’ve seen the New England Patriots five times in the last 12 years be victorious [in the AFC title game]. And we’ve seen the opposing coaches that lost come out and talk to our [reporter] Steve Tasker. Coach [Bill] Cowher did it when he lost to them.

"Bill Belichick makes it real easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can’t be a poor sport all the time. You’re not going to win all the time, and he does this every time he loses. It is unacceptable."

Sharpe has a fair point. But for those like myself who regularly cover the Patriots, this is just Belichick being Belichick. He is tough with all media and doesn’t care for interviews whether in victory or defeat.

Belichick usually does the bare-bones minimum with media, although Sunday’s loss probably heightened his want to get out of Gillette Stadium more than usual. Belichick did go through the mandatory post-game news conference Sunday night. But it was clear that was probably the last thing he cared to do after another tough playoff defeat.
Shannon Sharpe told USA Today that linebacker Ray Lewis will make a decision on whether he's playing in 2013 after his rehab.

Lewis tore the triceps muscle in his right arm Sunday and will likely need at least four months to recover from the injury. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has yet to talk to reporters since getting hurt.

"He said, 'Right now, I need to stay positive for my team," said Sharpe, the Hall of Fame tight end who has been one of Lewis' closest friends since winning the Super Bowl with him in 2000.

It's a little surprising that Lewis is even thinking about retirement. As I wrote earlier this week, Lewis is the type of player who will want to leave the game on his own terms and not have his last play be the one where he got hurt.

But Lewis has hinted that he is close to calling it quits. Last summer, he said he couldn't see playing past the age of 37. He turns 38 in May. And Lewis has talked about his desire to watch his son play football at the University of Miami when he becomes a freshman running back in 2013.

Sharpe said he won't make any predictions on what Lewis will decide. But he was surprised how Lewis sounded when he called him Sunday night.

"I was surprised by how good his spirits were," Sharpe said. "I was expecting him to be down. When I broke my collarbone, I cried like a baby. That was not the case with him."
INDIANAPOLIS -- For retired defensive tackle Warren Sapp, the pounding Eli Manning withstood at San Francisco in the NFC title game proved the New York Giants' quarterback had fully arrived.

But the six sacks and 12 quarterback hits Manning took did not register atop Sapp's list of all-time QB beatdowns.

"Nah, I saw Andrew Walter take nine sacks in the first half up in Seattle one night," Sapp said Monday at Super Bowl media day, recalling the Seahawks' 16-0 victory over his Walter-led Oakland Raiders in 2006.

Walter actually absorbed seven first-half sacks and nine overall in that game. Sapp had five tackles, one sack and two quarterback hits of his own in that game, but when he called his mother to discuss his performance, she wasn't able to offer much.

"She said, 'If I wanted to watch somebody get killed, I'd turn on Law & Order," Sapp said. "I knew I had to retire right there. They made my mother turn off the TV? Turn off 'Monday Night Football'? I'm getting out of here."

Sapp played one more season before retiring.

I'll pass along an additional thought from Sapp regarding Manning's performance against the 49ers. He was referring to Eli Manning in the context of being the oft-overshadowed younger brother to Peyton Manning:
"I'm the baby boy, too. When you are the baby, you always take a back seat to your brother. Sterling and Shannon [Sharpe] as an example. I was third in my house. I might be the third-best football player in my house when you get my brothers all together. When you look at that little brother, when you come out of that shell, you watch him just operate. You talk about calm.

"I was watching him in San Francisco and they were pounding him. I mean, lighting him up. Some of them flips to Ahmad Bradshaw, to be able to know he's there and to get it to him and to get out of the stuff he was in, I was like, 'Whoa.' I mean, there was no running game for him to bail out on and turn around and hand it off. There was none of that. It's on you, Eli. It's on you and Victor Cruz. And then they took Victor away from him."

Shannon Sharpe on Peyton Manning

January, 30, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe gave his take on the Peyton Manning situation:
Jim Irsay is doing the right thing. It looks like to me, he’s removed anyone that might have a dissenting opinion to him. No [Bill] Polian, change in head coach and change in training staff. First-year head coach and first-year general manager tells me they’re bringing in a new quarterback.

We know the Super Bowl is in Indy because of Peyton Manning. Lucas Oil Stadium is because of Peyton Manning. What Jim Irsay is saying, "I paid Peyton Manning $150 million. I think I did pretty good. I gave him $26 million when I knew he wasn’t going to be healthy." Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were all told their services weren’t required and they weren’t hurt. We don’t even have this debate if Peyton plays. We’re not even discussing this. Andrew Luck is out of the question. Because he was hurt, now they have to make a decision.

Jim Irsay has to think 10 years from now. Peyton Manning isn’t going to be playing. Do I keep Peyton Manning and pay him $28 million plus the other $20 million that I got to pay Andrew Luck over the life of his contract? No, you can’t do that. It’s hard and it’s a cold callous business. There’s no loyalty on both sides. But I think Mr. Irsay is doing the right thing.
Shannon Sharpe spent more than 26 minutes on the podium when he delivered his memorable acceptance speech into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

The Hall of Fame wants the inductees to speak for about 10 minutes. The loquacious Sharpe blew past that barrier as he thanked countless people who helped him along the way. Sharpe, however, didn’t mention Mike Shanahan, who Sharpe won two Super Bowls under in Denver. It was noticed.

Sharpe addressed it in a radio interview with a Denver station. He said there were weren’t any sinister reasons for not mentioning his former coach.

“I was already up there 26 minutes. You know what I am saying?,” Sharpe said. “Next thing you know it’s 40 minutes. Look I have a great relationship with Mike. Did it start out like that? No. because he perceived me a certain way. He let the persona overshadow the person. That bothered me, but as I got older as he got an opportunity to see … I think it took me leaving and going to Baltimore for Mike to finally have an appreciation of what I did and how hard I worked … To this day, Mike Shanahan and I have a great relationship. Look, I didn’t mention my college coach. I forgot. I forgot my agent. Look, the two people I knew who were going to be in there were my brother and my grandmother.

I knew that was going to happen. I was talking to my girlfriend as I was driving. We were driving back home I was like there are some people that I forgot and I automatically said the fact that I didn’t mention Mike [Shanahan] people are going to think well Shannon Sharpe doesn’t like Mike. I won two Super Bowls under Mike. I became a much better tight end. I became a much more disciplined tight end. I paid more attention to detail under Mike … I’ll let the naysayers and all the people that want to speculate on what my relationship is with the people I didn’t mention and that’s fine, but I know where I stand and they know where they stand.”

Quick hits on a travel Sunday

August, 7, 2011
As three of our teams take Sunday off from training camp, and the Chicago Bears prepare for a night session, let's run through some NFC North hotspots in quick-hitting fashion.

But first, a programming note: I'm heading out to Bears training camp Sunday evening and will be in place for practice over the ensuing three days. That will bring CampTour'11 to within one stop of completion. The tentative plan is to visit the Detroit Lions during the week of Aug. 14, but I'll confirm that with you as soon as I know for sure myself. Onward. ...

Item: The Chicago Bears appear set to replace Johnny Knox in their starting lineup with newly signed veteran Roy Williams, reports Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
Comment: Knox was the Bears' leading receiver by yardage last season, but there was always an undercurrent of doubt about his comfort level in the offense. Williams played in the same scheme while in Detroit, but he is six seasons removed from a 1,000-yard performance. Is it reasonable to expect him to be more productive in 2011 than Knox was last season?

Item: Richard Dent's Hall of Fame acceptance speech was 2,387 words.
Comment: Compared to Shannon Sharpe's speech, Dent's went by in a blink of an eye. Sharpe's speech went 3,768 words.

Item: The Lions' offensive line is in rough shape, as Tom Kowalski of notes.
Comment: Left tackle Jeff Backus hasn't practiced because of a torn pectoral muscle. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus has missed most of the past week because of soreness in his surgically repaired knee. Backup Jason Fox is sidelined by a foot injury. The Lions still appear confident that Backus will be ready to start the regular season, but the Cherilus injury is troublesome and there is no denying the Lions are missing some valuable chemistry-building time this summer.

Item: The Lions moved new linebacker Stephen Tulloch to the middle position during Saturday's practice.
Comment: There is every reason to believe Tulloch will remain there, with DeAndre Levy at one outside position and Justin Durant at the other. It's an unquestioned upgrade.

Item: The Green Bay Packers' Family Night practice was canceled after 20 plays because of weather.
Comment: That's 20 more plays than the Bears ran at their Family Night affair on Friday. This was the only practice of the entire summer that was exposed to weather; all other workouts can be moved indoors if needed. It's the third time in four years that Family Night has been cut short or canceled, notes Jason Wilde of

Item: Packers quarterback Matt Flynn could increase his value as a 2012 free agent with a strong preseason performance, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Comment: That's one reason I think coach Mike McCarthy really wants to keep No. 3 quarterback Graham Harrell on his roster this season. Flynn could leave the Packers without a proven backup if he signs elsewhere next year.

Item: The Minnesota Vikings had more fans at their Family Night (9,145) than ever before.
Comment: Did they think Brett Favre would finally make a training camp appearance?

Shannon Sharpe HOF enshrinement speech

August, 6, 2011
Shannon SharpeRick Osentoski/US Presswire"The people of the Hall of Fame tell me I only have eight minutes to do this," Shannon Sharpe began. "No chance."
Hall of Fame enshrinement speech of Shannon Sharpe, Super Bowl winning tight end for the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens from from 1990-2003:

Thank you, everyone. The people from the Hall of Fame tell me I only have eight to ten minutes to do this. No chance. First, I'd like to personally thank the 44 men and women that went to a room on February 5th and deemed my play on the field worthy of this prestigious honor. Thank you.

I'd also like to thank the City of Canton, the Pro Football Hall of Fame itself, and all the volunteers for their hard work to make this such a great event. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. I keep telling myself I'm not going to get emotional today, but I know that's not going to happen.

At this moment, I'm extremely proud and excited where my 14 year NFL journey has taken me and my family. And today is the culmination of that journey. 2121 George Halas Drive, Canton, Ohio.

Today I'm humbled to be joining such an elite fraternity of great players who defined our game. I want to start by congratulating my fellow inductees who I share the stage with today. I'd also like to recognize the elite seven, that is the number of tight ends that have already been enshrined.

Today I become the eighth member. Thank you, guys. I'm honored to become a member of your select group.

We lost one of our members early last month, John Mackey. My prayers and my deepest sympathies go out to Ms. Sylvia Mackey, and the Mackey family. All these years later, nothing makes me prouder than when people call me a self made man. I have a certain persona as a player, and I know this will come as a shock, but I like to talk. It's a trait I picked up from my mom and from my brother.

A reporter once told me he could hear the tape recorder smiling when I got on a roll, but, please, don't let the persona overshadow the person. The persona likes to have fun. The person knew when it was time to get to work.

People often ask me how does a small town kid from Glennville, Georgia, who went to Savannah State College now Savannah State University, who won three Super Bowls and at one time owned all significant receiving records for a tight end? I want all you young people to listen to my answer. It's called the three D's: Determination, Dedication, and Discipline. Three traits that translate in any generation and any job setting. There is a reason they called it chasing your dreams and not walking after them. Don't hope someone gives you an opportunity, create one for yourself.

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. 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.

I want to take a moment to personally thank some of these people who made this possible. Ms. Elaine Keels, my high school remedial reading and Spanish teacher.

And I know what you're saying, "remedial reading and Spanish?" I was saying the exact same thing. She said it would help my reading, I said it would help me repeat my sophomore year. I think she just wanted me to take the class so she could have extra hand's on time to help a young Shannon Sharpe. Thank you, Ms. Keels.

William Hall, my high school football coach, track coach, and driver's ed teacher. Coach Hall has been teaching and coaching for 50 plus years, and he's still coaching today. I know some of you might be in awe of the number of years, but it's the number of miles. He drives 65 miles one way to get to school. Thanks, Coach Hall, for all your wisdom. Thanks Coach Hall for all your wisdom, your guidance, your understanding that you've given me and my family over those 50 plus years. Hopefully all those miles you've driven seem worth it today.

All of these people have something in common. They believed in me and so did my first NFL head coach, Dan Reeves. He remembered to draft me, but somehow forgot to cut me. Thanks, coach, I'm glad you have a lousy memory. I just want to share this little story with you, how close this moment came to not happening.

Our last preseason game my rookie year, we were playing the Arizona Cardinals. One of the coaches came to me and told me, Shannon, your name's on the board to be cut tomorrow. He said, I don't know how much you're going to play, I don't know if you're going to play. But he said if you play, play really hard so you have something on tape, so if we release you, someone else can say okay, this guy can play a little bit.

It started to rain, and I remember driving to the stadium as it started to rain, and I'm saying to myself, if we're not going to throw the ball, how am I going to show what I can do? I played on special teams and I got 20 offensive plays, had 12 knock down blocks. I'm not proud to say I was cutting everything that moves. When they went back into the room on Saturday, my name was off the board. I made it.

I'd like to thank Wade Phillips, the defensive coordinator with the Broncos at the time who looked at a certain scout receiver and tight end and said, Dan, let's put him in the game and see if they can cover him, because we sure can't. Football, of course is the ultimate team game. You don't land here without the support of hundreds of dedicated men whose sacrifices help you become a better player. I wish I could mention all of these guys by name. But unfortunately, time doesn't permit that.

I want to thank my head coaches, my offensive coordinators, my position coaches who diagrammed plays and had the confidence in me to call those plays to help make today possible.

I'd like to have a very special thanks to Mr. Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos. Mr. Art Modell, former owner of the Baltimore Ravens whose wife, Pat, is a little under the weather, and I want to take this opportunity to wish her a speedy recovery.

I'd also like to thank the fans of these two great franchises, without you, there are no Super Bowl rings, no receiving records, no bronze bust.

To all my former teammates at Glennville High, Savannah State, Denver, Baltimore, hopeful you, hopefully you thought I was a good teammate and you enjoyed me as much as I enjoyed you.

Then, of course, there is my quarterback and great friend, John Elway. His place in these halls tells you what kind of player he was. I want to take a moment to tell you what kind of man he is. John had never heard of Shannon Sharpe or Savannah State, but not only did he embrace me, he chose me as his go to guy. In my first game starting at tight end they put me in motion the entire game.

As I would motion past John, he would turn around and tell me what I had to do, block the end, block the linebacker, run the out, run a corner. We won the game. I'm standing on the sideline, and I can see John walking towards me. Instead of being angry and upset with me, he walks up to me and he says, I think next week we need to learn the plays. Thanks, John, for teaching me how to be a pro.

Someone once said other things may change, but we start and end with family. As we start here with the end of my journey, I know I wouldn't be here without my family.

To my three kids, Kayla, Kiari and Kaley, thanks for understanding when I promised to take you to the movies or the amusement park or to the mall, but because I'd run myself into the ground or lifted myself into oblivion earlier that day, I didn't do what I had promised to do the night before. Thank you for making all of those sacrifices the other kids never had to make so your dad could live out his dream.

Katy, thanks for your love and support. And being here today to share with me this very special occasion. Thank you. Mom, I know how my grandmother gets, my brother and I talk about her a lot, but this day doesn't happen without you. What can I say? Your baby's in the Hall of Fame. Thanks for all the sacrifices you've made.

I was the first kid in Glennville to have a pair of Air Jordan's, a Mickey Mouse watch and a Walkman. Whatever my brother and sister and I asked for and you could get, you got. I forgive you for all those white suits that you got us for Easter that made us look like John Travolta.

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, 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 guy's 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. I don't say, hey, just do that. 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.

My sister, Libby, the caretaker of the family, my best friend, my sounding board, my biggest fan. Of the three of us you've had the toughest job so my brother and I could live out our dreams, you took care of the most important person in our family, our grandmother. The last two and a half years haven't been easy on any of us, least of all you.

Every other day you would drive to go to different hospitals so our grandmother could get the best care. The eight to ten hours a day sitting in the nursing home so our granny wouldn't be alone. That just didn't start two and a half years ago. You've been with my grandmother for 41 years. Thanks for being there for my grandmother and me. I love you, big sis.

Last but not least, I think this is where I start to get emotional, my granny. See the guy that did this bust here, he went to school for that. He's trained to bring clay to life with his hands. It's my turn to bring Mary Porter to life with my voice. It's time for me to give Mary Porter a face for all those that don't know who she is. It's my turn now.

What do you say about a person that gives you everything but life? How do you start to say thank you, granny, for a woman that raises nine of her kids and your mom's three, and she sacrificed more for her grand kids than she did her own. My grandmother was a very simple woman. She didn't want a whole lot. My grandmother wanted to go to church and Sunday school every Sunday. She wanted to be in Bible study every Wednesday. The other days she wanted to be on a fishing creek.

It was my brothers and my job to make sure she can do that for the remaining days of her life. The only regret that I have in my 43 years that I never told my grandmother just how much she means to me.

See, my grandmother and grandfather, they raised me, and I hung on everything they said, but they didn't know it. I can tell you every time that my grandmother has ever been upset at me, I can tell you why. My brother never knew that everything he said that I hung on it.

I wanted to be so much like my brother that when I went to college, my brother's first college girlfriend when I went to college, my first college girlfriend looked exactly like his (laughing).

I remember getting ready to go to Savannah State with those two brown grocery bags in 1986, and a teammate of mine that was going to the very same school blew the horn at 2:00 in the afternoon on an August day. My sister was laying on the couch, my grandmother was laying in the room, and she could see me as I was getting ready to leave, but my grandmother never got out of bed.

My grandmother never told me when I was getting ready to leave for Savannah State, "Shannon, don't do drugs. Shannon, don't drink. Shannon, go to class. Shannon do your homework. Shannon, be respectful. Shannon, iron your clothes." She figured she had laid that foundation for 18 years, a ten minute speech wasn't going to work now.

One of my best friends that is already in the Hall of Fame is Michael Irvin. If I talk to him, and I can talk to him about anything, they say, "you don't know a man's pain unless you walk a mile in his shoes." But you can't walk a mile in Shannon Sharpe's shoes because that wouldn't do it justice. You need to walk 20 years of my life. You need to walk 20 years in this body and feel this raging inferno that I felt to get out of Glennville, to leave that thousand square foot cinder block home with the cement floors, to leave what my grandmother said, baby, is it going to be the gas this month that I'm going to pay or is it going to be the lights? Do you want to eat or do you want light to see so can you do your homework? Son, do you want the phone just in case there's an emergency we can call somebody? What is it going to be this month? That drove me. That drove me.

Nobody ever knew how much this five alarm fire raged inside of me. My sister didn't know, my brother didn't know, but it raged. I had to leave Glennville. I had to make a better way for my brothers, for my sister, for my mom. I didn't want my kids to live one night, not one hour, not one hour in the life that I had let alone a day.

And I neglected my kids. I missed recitals, I missed football practice, I missed graduations because I was so obsessed with being the best player I could possibly be that I neglected a lot of people. I ruined a lot of relationships. But I'm not here to apologize for that because it got me here and it got them to a life they never would have enjoyed had it not been for that.

I want to leave you with this: My position coach who is sitting right there in the stands, Les Steckel once asked me, son, why do you work so hard? Every time at lunch you're not eating, you're in the gym, you're working out.

You study harder, you practice harder, you have more fun. I said, Les, I never want to eat cold oatmeal again. I said, you don't know what it's like, Les, to grow up like I grew up. To eat the animals that I ate. I remember eating raccoon. I remember eating possum. I remember eating squirrel and turtle. I remember those days. I said, I ate that now as a kid, but I'm not going to have to eat that when I become an adult.

The one story I want to leave you with to tell you why I became this person: When I was 12 years old I told my mom, "Mom, I'm going to have some money one day, and I'm going to buy you a Mercedes, and I did."

When I came and I asked my grandmother, what do you want? She always called me her baby. She never called me by my name. I said, "You want me to buy you a car and teach you how to drive? She said, no, son, I don't want that. I said, "Granny, do you want jewelry?" She said, no, son, I don't want that. She said, son, I want a decent house.

And I'm thinking well, my grandmother wants 7,000, 8,000 square feet. But then I knew my grandmother, knowing her like I know her, after pausing for five or six minutes. I said, "Granny, what is a decent home?" And I remember it like yesterday, and it was 30 plus years ago.

She said, son, I want a decent home and her words verbatim is "Son, I want to go to bed one night," and she said, "I want God to let it rain as hard as he possibly can, and I want him to let it rain all night long." She said, "I want to wake up and not be wet." That's a decent home for my grandmother. That's all she wanted. For 66 years, my grandmother never went to bed and had it rain and not be wet the next morning. I remember those days of putting those plastic coats on the bed and I'm going to date myself and call them croaker sacks but now we call them burlap bags. I remember that.

I remember putting the pots and pans on the floor to catch the rain water. The very pots and pans that we're going to cook in the next day. I remember that. It broke my heart that my grandmother, all she wanted was she's got two grand boys that are making millions of dollars, and she wanted a house that wouldn't leak. That's all she wanted. That's all my grandmother wanted.

For two boys that are making millions and all you want is a decent house. You want to go to bed and not get wet when you wake up. That's what drove Shannon. That's what got me here.

When I did the special, we were going down, my brother and I were going down to shoot a special that Thursday. My sister called me about 9:00 that Wednesday night. She said, "Shannon, she's gone." I said, "for real, Libby?" She hung the phone up. My girlfriend and I were laying in the bed. She said, are you okay? 'I said I'm fine." I just want to lay here, and I just want to think.

As I'm driving down I've got my head phones on because I don't want to talk. And I'm trying to gather in my mind what I'm going to say when I see my grandma laying in that casket, and before I did the interview I remember going by King's Funeral Home that had my grandmother's body, and I rubbed her head. My sister had her hair braided, and I rubbed her head, and I already knew what she would want.

I said, now Granny, I promised these people I would do this, but if you say no, I think they'll understand. See, my grandmother, if you give a man your word, you do what you say you're going to do.

See, when my grandfather died, I missed one day, the day of the funeral. My grandmother didn't believe in that. If you promise somebody you're going to do something, you do it. As my grandmother was laying in that casket on Saturday morning, I walked over to her, and I asked her two things. I asked her two things: I said, "Granny, am I the man you thought I would be when you got on the train and you came to Chicago and got me at three months? Am I the man you thought I would be?" And I stood there for about 20 seconds and I could see her smiling.

Then I asked her, "Are you proud?" I said, Granny, are you proud of your baby? Because everything I've done in my life, I've tried to please you.

I know my grandmother's proud. I know my family's proud. This day means so much to me because I get to share it with that guy right there. You'll never know. When he put that jacket on me last night, there's two people in this world who knew what we were thinking. There were two people in this world who knew what we felt at that very moment, and we felt it at the very same time. Guys, I'm so honored to be a part of this. I'm so honored. You don't know what this means to me.

You play in the National Football League and you say you're a member of the fraternity. But this is the fraternity of all fraternities. Deacon Jones once said everybody in this room right here could catch the other person that's in this room right here. Nobody's better, whether you're 1 or you're 267.

Guys, thank you for allowing me to share 14 minutes and 23 seconds of your time. Thank you.