Savannah’s Golden Boy

A Georgia boy by birth, football legend Shannon Sharpe came from humble beginnings. But his hard work and determination eventually afforded him a spot on his college team and then led him to the NFL. Recently, after being inducted into the hall of fame, he visited his alma mater to give students and Savannahians a little inspiration Late in the second quarter of Savannah State’s 2011 homecoming game against Howard University, Shannon Sharpe walked down to the edge of the home sideline, just a few feet away from the field and a fade route away from the end zone where he had dazzled Tiger faithful 25 years earlier. He stood proudly on the edge of the gridiron, his massive 6-foot-2 frame enveloped by dark blue jeans, a starched white shirt, Italian leather shoes and a distinctive yellow blazer.

In between handshakes, high-fives and hugs, Sharpe snuck in a few fleeting peeks at the action on the field. Savannah State trailed Howard 20-7 in the waning moments of the second quarter, but even his alma mater’s deficit could scarcely take away from the nostalgic grandeur of the experience. In many ways, Sharpe was not just watching senior quarterback A.J. Defilippis try to advance the Tigers down the field for a late score, he was watching the story of his life unfold. Even though he is recognizable for his size and girth, it was the canary yellow blazer that stood out, for it signified his election less than two months earlier into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The former Broncos and Ravens NFL tight end received the ultimate honor for a professional football player, as he was enshrined August 6 with Deion Sanders and four others into the Hall of Fame.

The career resume for Sharpe is superlative: eight Pro Bowl selections, 815 receptions, 62 touchdowns, 10,000-plus receiving yards, three Super Bowl rings. In fact, at the time of his retirement in 2003, he was the all-time leader in every major receiving category for tight ends (yards, receptions and touchdowns), though he since has been surpassed by current Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. “I think the overall body of work is what I’m most proud of. I think it’s the consistency that I maintained once I got an opportunity to play,” says Sharpe, in an exclusive interview with South Magazine. “To be able to do what I did from the time I became a starter until the time I walked away from the game, that’s special to me.” Informally, among the scads of television analysts on location for the wall-to-wall Hall of Fame weekend coverage, Sharpe’s 14-minute, 23-second hallelujah seemed to resonate the most.