DENVER (CBS4) – A few months ago Shannon Sharpe contacted CBS4’s Gary Miller with a simple request — come up with a highlight tape he could show at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. The hard part was figuring out just where to begin.
John Elway led the procession of Broncos into the Hall of Fame in 2004. Gary Zimmerman followed in 2008. Now it’s Sharpe’s turn. If Elway was the overall best and Zimmerman the strongest, Sharpe was by far the most loquacious.
Broncos owner Pat Bowen said telling Sharpe to tone it down would have been impossible.
“That would have been like saying, ‘Cut off your right arm,'” Bowlen said.
Elway said Sharpe wasn’t so much a talker from the start.
“He grew into the talking. I think once he became comfortable and got the confidence and knew he could play in this league he became the hit of the locker room, there’s no question about it,” Elway said.
Sharpe made so many great plays in his Hall of Fame career, he was always a target Elway knew he could count on. But their relationship wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“The one time we had it he kind of showed me up and waived his arms that he was wide open and showed the 75,000 people in the stadium that he was wide open; so we kind of went through a week where I didn’t throw him the football,” Elway said. “Even when he was wide open in practice I’d go to the second or third receiver.
“At the end of the week he was frustrated. I remember Brian Perry coming up to me and saying, ‘John, will you please throw Shannon the ball.’ I said, ‘As long as he’s going to be quiet and not show me up and then I’ll be glad to give him the ball.’ After that Shannon and I never had a problem.”
They certainly didn’t have a problem on the biggest completion they ever made. The Broncos faced a critical third down late in the AFC title game in Pittsburgh. They couldn’t afford to give the ball back to the Steelers. So Elway and Sharpe teamed up for perhaps the biggest first down in Broncos history.
Elway said it was a play that they had run in training camp several times and it wasn’t in the game plan that week, but head coach Mike Shanahan wanted to run the play.
“I called the play and Shannon started going crazy (saying), ‘It’s not in the game plan, it’s not in the game plan.’ I said, ‘It is now, so go down six yards and turn around.’ I relied on Shannon and I trusted him and knew that he was always going to catch the football.”
Former Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith said the relationship Elway had with Sharpe was amazing.
“He’d looked at Shannon, he said, ‘Get open.’ That’s pretty much what he did. He said, ‘Sharpie,’ that’s what he used to call him, ‘Get open.’ I said, ‘John, what do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘Rod, you get out of the way,'” Smith said. “So I ran a goal route.”
Sharpe will take his rightful place in Canton among the greats of the game. Fans know he will score his final touchdown with a speech that will certainly come from the heart. It will be the culmination of the brilliant career of arguably the greatest pass-catching tight end to ever play the game.