There may be a quarterback controversy in Denver, but there’s a tight end chronicle in Canton – and a mesmerizing one at that.
If Shannon Sharpe’s resume needed to be printed, the printer would run out of ink and paper. We know about the three Super Bowl titles, the eight Pro Bowl appearances, the league records, and the team records. If you want to talk about those things with Sharpe this weekend, you’ll have to dig deep into his cortex because those aren’t the things at the surface of his mind.
The topic on the front burner is family. As for his success on and off the football field, Sharpe gives credit to his grandmother, Mary Porter, and his older brother, Sterling Sharpe. Sterling had a great seven-year career with the Green Bay Packers before a career-ending neck injury.
“My family means everything to me,” Sharpe said Friday afternoon, and that’s who he will talk about in his speech Saturday night.
“It’s my job with my speech to create a portrait of my grandmother, so when they hear “Mary Porter”, they almost get a sense of who she is.”
Porter raised Shannon, Sterling, and their sister, Libby, in Savannah Georgia after their mother couldn’t care for her children. Porter took the kids from Chicago and brought them to a better situation. However, living conditions weren’t the best. Sterling shared a bed with his grandfather and Shannon shared a bed with his grandmother. Nevertheless, Porter ran a tight ship.
Mary Porter died exactly one month before Sharpe was to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but her presence will be felt at the enshrinement.
“Now it’s time for Mary Porter, my grandmother, to have a face,” Sharpe said.
Porter was Sharpe’s teacher, supporter, and age-old sage.
“Everything that she said, I hung on every word,” Sharpe said. “My grandmother knew something about me that I didn’t even know about myself. That is that I was a lot stronger than I had ever given myself credit.”
In addition to Porter, Sterling Sharpe has been a big inspiration to Shannon. In fact, Sterling will be the one to present Shannon to the Hall.
It’s ironic how things play out. Sterling was forced into an early retirement in 1995 after a neck injury. In 1996, his Packer team won the Super Bowl, and then in 1997, Shannon and the Broncos beat the Packers to win their first Super Bowl.
“I was supposed to be his presenter. He wasn’t supposed to be my presenter,” Shannon said of Sterling. “I don’t know which will bring me greater joy. Me actually putting the jacket on, or my brother helping me put it on.”
Shannon describes their relationship in an entertaining way.
“I wanted to be so much like my brother that when I got to college and I dated my first girlfriend in college, I found a girl who looked exactly like his girlfriend in college. I hung on to everything my brother said. He was the end all be all.”
Shannon still idols his older brother.
“I’m the only Hall of Famer who can say I’m the second best football player in my family.”
Tonight when Sterling holds the gold jacket open for Shannon, it wouldn’t be uncharacteristic for Shannon to say “I’m Shannon Sharpe. I’m just Sterling’s little brother.”
At the end of this tight end chronicle, the lesson to be learned is that it doesn’t matter how poor a man is. He’s rich if he has family.
Congratulations, Shannon Sharpe. You’ve made Broncos fans proud.