Denver Broncos Countdown to Kickoff 84 Days: Shannon Sharpe

Determination, Dedication, Discipline: "Don't hope someone gives you an opportunity create one for yourself."

Where does the journey begin from nothing to stardom? How does one become the best at what they do? What drives a person to outwork his peers not because of pride but because of necessity? When does a Hall of Famer become who he is, and why is destiny just another indicator of the past? Shannon Sharpe, just like other great figures in history, is who he is because he lived it. Determination, Dedication, and Discipline are not merely catch phrases thrown out there by some author of a self-help book. Determination, Dedication, and Discipline is the way Shannon lives his life. It is the reason he is one of the greatest football players to ever step foot on an NFL field.

The first step to building a house is by laying the foundation. There is no success in life without foundation. To some the foundation was laid before they were ever born, beings of opportunity and entitlement. To others the foundation is laid painstakingly brick by brick by brick. Shannon led a very difficult life as a youngster. A victim of chance--born into bad circumstance and poverty. But circumstance and poverty are only obstacles. They are not defining characteristics. Defining characteristics are shaped through choices. Obstacles are nothing but lies and distractions, keeping your focus on the things that don't matter in life, keeping you from being the person you want to be. For Shannon his defining characteristics and choices were molded by many special people in his life, none greater than the members of his family.

Defining characteristics are shaped through choices. Obstacles are nothing but lies and distractions, keeping your focus on the things that don't matter in life, keeping you from being the person you want to be. -Bronco Mike

Laying the foundation

At three months old Shannon faced his 1st big obstacle. His parents struggling, his grandmother Mary Porter took a train to Chicago to gather Shannon and his two siblings Libby and Sterling. Grandma Porter was already raising nine children of her own. Nonetheless, she took her babies back to her humble home in Glennville, Georgia. A home where Shannon would sleep in the same place as his granny Mary and Sterling would sleep with his grandpa Barney. Imagine 14 people living in a house that leaked so much when it rained that they would put burlap sacks to protect the beds and use the cooking pots and pans to collect water.

In my own family, my father grew up in similar conditions. He had four brothers and three sisters. This was a little bit before Shannon's time, back when the sewage system consisted of an outhouse and they would have to burn coal in a hot fire to unfreeze the water spigot in winter times. Grandpa Gomez was a coal-miner. He worked long hours to provide for his family in hazardous conditions. My dad learned a lot of life lessons not only because of necessity but through the amazing people he had in his life. Shannon is very much the same.

They had to survived on whatever food they could get. Whether it be of the often laughed at road kill variety, turtles, fish from Granny Porter's favorite fishing pond, cold oatmeal, or even a delicacy of a homemade chicken dinner provided on Sundays, Shannon and his family survived. And they did so with the strong upbringing of their grandparents. "My Grandmother and Grandfather they raised me and I hung on everything they say but they didn't know it."

This is the foundation upon which Shannon Sharpe's HOF career was built. He tells of the night he left for Savannah State. It was 2 in the morning and he heard a honk from a horn outside. With two grocery bags in hand which contained his belongings, Shannon could see his granny was still awake. She didn't get out of bed, she didn't say a word. She never said "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 had laid that foundation for 18 years and a 10 minute speech wasn't going to work now."

Brotherly Love

Brotherly Love is something that goes very deep. My big brother Joe is my best friend. At the moment he's married with six beautiful children---all of whom are a blessing in my life. A wonderful man of God who pastors to the broken and less fortunate. I've witnessed him give so much and bless other people through random acts of kindness. He's the kind of man I want to be someday. Growing up, and there's quite a big age difference--him being the old man;) I looked up to my brother in everything that he did. In fact I picked up the sax and became a musician because he played the sax.

This is the same sort of relationship Shannon had with Sterling. They are soul brothers, intertwined and joined by a connection only brothers understand. Sterling was the reason Shannon became a football player. Sterling was the reason Shannon worked so hard to be the best at his position. In Shannon's eyes he was chasing after his brother, not out of obligation or out of a sense of envy, but out of love. Plain and simple. Shannon once said to his brother "I never once lived in your shadow, I embraced it."

"Well, I always wanted to be like my brother, and my sister used to say, 'Shannon, stop trying to be like him and be your own man and be your own person.' But, I just felt that everything that he did, whatever he stood for - that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to stand for that, I wanted to be as good as he was in football and in basketball and in track. And, the way he carried himself and the way that people respected him - I wanted that. He has always been there for me. He has always told me, 'This is what we need to do.' It has never been what you need to do, it is always, 'This is what we need to do.' It has always been about he and I.

It has always been, 'What can we do to become a better player? What can we do to become a better person?' He laid the groundwork. His career was shortened by injury and I was playing for the both of us. We continued on the journey that we had set when we were small kids in Glennville, Ga. Now, instead of both of us carrying this journey, I was on this road by myself. So, I had to continue on this path and to make sure at the end of the day that it was going to be a finished product that we could be pleased with.

He never got a chance to go to the Super Bowl, I did. I just said that it was the right thing to do. And, if I hadn't won the Super Bowl and this moment would have happened, I probably would have given him the Hall of Fame ring. I'd keep the jacket, because he couldn't fit in the jacket, not on his best day (laughs). But he could fit into the ring."

via DenverBroncos.com

If you're wondering what he's referring to at the end, when the Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII and Shannon got his championship ring, he gave it to his brother without saying a word to anyone else. The story goes that once Mike Shanahan heard what Shannon had done, he bought him another one at his own expense. If Granny Mary was the inspiration for Shannon to strive, persevere, and do things the right way, Sterling was the inspiration for him to become the game changing TE that provided us with so many years of greatness.

Becoming a pro

"It almost didn't happen". You see Shannon Sharpe didn't enter the league like a Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. There were a lot of unknowns. At the time Sharpe was a "tweener". Too big to be a WR, too small to be a TE. He was drafted in 7th round of the 1990 NFL draft, 192nd overall. In fact 22 receivers were taken before Sharpe. As he tells it he owes his opportunity to head Coach Dan Reeves who 'remembered to draft him but forgot to cut him' and Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips who told Reeves "Dan let's put him in the game and see if they can cover him because we sure can't."

As the preseason drew to a close on his rookie season, a coach came to him the night before the last game and told him that his name was on the cut list. He told Sharpe to play as hard and put some good things on film that way he could catch on with another franchise if he was released. Shannon says on his way to the game that it was raining, and he thought to himself "we probably won't pass the ball, how can I show what to do?" Shannon played some special teams and got 20 offensive snaps. On 12 of those snaps, he registered 12 cut blocks. The very next day, his name was off the cut list. People remember the receptions and yards and forget what a phenomenal blocker he was.

He had all the physical tools, the foundation, the work ethic, and now the opportunity. The only thing missing would be professionalism. To this, he owes John Elway gratitude:

"John had never heard of Shannon Sharpe or Savanah State, but not only did he embrace me, he chose me as his go to guy. In my first game starting at TE they put me in motion the entire game, as I would motion past John he would turn around and tell me what to do-‘block the end' ‘block the LB' ‘run an out' ‘run a corner' ...we won the game I'm standing on the sideline I can see John walking towards me and instead of being angry and upset with me he says "I think next week we need to learn the plays."

He also had patience from his biggest supporter. You see back during the decision to keep Shannon on the team, Dan Reeves went to John Elway and asked him what he thought about Shannon and John said they could figure out a role for him on the team. In other words, John knew that Shannon could be a special player.

Hall of Fame Career

In August of 2011 Shannon Sharpe was inducted into the pro football hall of fame.

Career

(Regular Season)

G

GS

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

14 years

204

169

815

10060

12.3

62

Career

(Playoffs)

G

GS

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

8 seasons

18

---

62

814

13.1

4

- 8 time pro bowler (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001)

- 4 time first team all pro (1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)

- 3 time super bowl champion (Super Bowl XXXII, Super Bowl XXXIII, Super Bowl XXXV)

- NFL all decade team (1990's)

- Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary Team

Numbers and accolades, they're not what makes a player, they are the product of the player's desire and sacrifice. Shannon Sharpe built a HOF career through Determination, Dedication, and Discipline. It did not happen by chance or fortune, it happened by hard work and sacrifice. That word keeps coming up, sacrifice. What does sacrifice mean? What motivates one to sacrifice?

The fire that burns within

I've talked about my father before. Growing up he was my best friend. His sacrifice was working 12 hour days and finding the strength to come home and throw the ball around with me, take me for walks, go to practice, pick me up and drop me off at school. You name it, he did it. He's my Pal, and to this day I know if I need anything, I can talk to him.

For a brief three year period in my life I didn't have that. On the precipice of HS my father was incarcerated. In his absence though, I learned what a wonderfully beautiful person my mother was. You see my mom and dad were cast in the traditional mold. Dad earned the paycheck, Mom made sure the house was in order. Without my dad there to provide an income, my mother had to enter the workforce for the first time since her teenage years without so much as a high school diploma.

Every day during the week and sometimes on weekends my mom cleaned other people's houses. For those that write off house cleaners as 2nd rate citizens live a month in their shoes. Everyday my mom would come home from backbreaking work and still find the strength to make supper and talk to me about my day. My mother was put into a bad situation, not of her doing, and in spite of every obstacle she faced, she held the family together. That is the fire that burns within. The fire that keeps you going day in and day out, the inferno that scorches your soul into action and reminds you that you have to do what you can no matter what. My mother is one of the most amazing people I know and I love her dearly.

This fire is what drove Shannon to become the player he was. It drove him to become one of the greatest players of all time. A three time world champion, eight time pro bowler, and four time all pro. Just like my mom sacrificed for me to keep our family together, Shannon sacrificed for his family. With sacrifice there comes disappointment at times. Shannon neglected his children. He wasn't there for recitals, practices, graduations because he was so obsessed with being the best player he could possibly be. He did these things so he could make a better way in the world for his kids.

He did not want to have to ask his children if they wanted the electric bill paid that month so they could do their homework or whether or not they wanted the phone in case they needed to make a call. He did not want his children to sleep under a leaky roof in a house that was blazing hot in the summer and cold as ice in the winter. He did not want his children to live one hour in the life that he had lived; he wanted to make a better way for his brothers, his sister, his mom.

Most importantly, for the person that meant the most in Shannon's life--Grandma Mary Porter, he wanted to validate her years of sacrifice and love by asking:

"Am I the man you always thought I would be?"

I can only imagine the moment shared between two kindred souls as Granny Mary looked at her baby. Not a word uttered, just a smile and a nod--her approval written and wrapped around her soul, reflected through two old eyes that witnessed her baby become a man.

"Yes my baby, yes you are"

That is something you can't put a value on. You can't number or quantify true love, sacrifice, and approval through conventional means. The Determination, Dedication, and Discipline built by a solid foundation, sprung into action by a raging inferno, and validated by great sacrifice was all for her, his brother, his sister, his children. Greatness by necessity, he didn't know any other way.

We are fortunate as Broncos fans to have witnessed the illustrious career of #84. He is the man Granny Porter thought he would be when she took him in as her own.

Memorable Shannon Sharpe Quotes

"I like to talk. I admit it. If I can't talk, I'm crippled, blind, deaf, and dumb."

On beating Pittsburgh in the 1997 AFCCG

"Stay away from the Allegheny, the Ohio and the Monongahela! I hope they freeze those three rivers tonight because I'd hate to see anybody plunging to the bottom of ‘em."

On earning his degree

"I was a terrible student. I didn't graduate magna cum laude, I graduated ‘Thank you, Lawdy!' "

On beating the Patriots

"The British are coming, the British are coming! Mr. President! We need the National Guard! We need as many men as you can spare because we are killing the Patriots! So call the dogs off! Send the National Guard, please! They need emergency help! Please! Help!"

via The Denver Post





Cool Shannon Sharpe Factoid

From 1997 through a wild-card win in January 2002, #84 won 12 consecutive playoff games--a post NFL merger record.

Current Bronco wearing #84

Jacob Tamme

Read more: Denver Broncos by the numbers: #84 (Kaptain Kirk)

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