Sterling Sharpe should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Shannon Sharpe tweeted about his brother on Thursday and it occurred to me that there is younger generation of sports fans who are very familiar with the FS1 personality who might not have any clue that his big brother also played in the NFL. Shannon obviously felt like Sterling deserved a PSA yesterday and he is absolutely right.
While Shannon Sharpe hosts Undisputed with Skip Bayless and has 1.4 million Twitter followers, Sterling is the Sharpe the world kind of forgot. Since retiring, Sterling had his own career in sports media, but these days the man who goes by @thro284 mostly keeps his 10,000 followers updated on South Carolina Gamecocks athletics and his golf game. Meanwhile, his short and epic career seem forgotten.
While Calvin Johnson was just told he had been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sterling Sharpe remains on the outside looking in. Sharpe was a three-time All-Pro with five Pro Bowl appearances. Johnson was a three-time All-Pro with six Pro Bowl appearances. The start of their careers are very similar, except Sharpe got to play with young Brett Favre and Johnson played two more seasons.
When Favre showed up in Green Bay in 1992, Sharpe had 108 catches for 1461 yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the NFL in all three categories. All three of those numbers would be in the top five of NFL leaders this season. The next closest player in receptions and touchdown catches that year was Andre Rison. The next closest player in receiving yards was Michael Irvin. Jerry Rice was also up there, but not close to Sharpe.
Unfortunately, Sterling suffered a serious and odd neck injury. Joe Buck was on the call when he was initially injured on what looked like a pretty insignificant collision while blocking. Sharpe walked off the field and then scored three touchdowns a week later before re-aggravating it. He never played again.
Shannon and Sterling talked about the end of his career on the first episode of the Club Shay Shay podcast in September.
The point is, Sterling Sharpe was awesome. He was one of the biggest stars in football in the early 90's. Shannon's teammate on the Denver Broncos, Terrell Davis, is in the Hall of Fame. Davis also saw his career cut short by injuries and played only five full seasons, but his record was bolstered when the Broncos won two Super Bowls. Sterling was forced to retire two seasons before the Packers and Broncos would meet in the Super Bowl.
It truly is one of the NFL's big what-if's. Who knows what could have been in Green Bay and in the record books if Sharpe had stayed healthy. What we do know is that while he was playing, he was one of the best ever. Holding a player's career length against them in a sport when the average career is 3.3 years seems crazy. Sterling Sharpe deserves to be a Hall of Famer, not just the brother of one.