CANTON, Ohio (AP) — That kid who went to college with two brown grocery bags filled with his belongings strutted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
Shannon Sharpe joined running back Marshall Faulk, Chicago Bears sackmaster Richard Dent, Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger, the late Les Richter and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol in being inducted into the hall.
Deion Sanders was the final inductee.
When Sharpe headed to Savannah State, all he heard was how he was destined to fail.
“When people told me I’d never make it, I listened to the one person who said I could: me,” Sharpe said.
Failure? Sharpe went from a seventh-round draft pick to the most prolific tight end of his time. He won two Super Bowls with Denver and one with Baltimore, and at the time of his retirement in 2003, his 815 career receptions, 10,060 yards and 62 TDs were all NFL records for a tight end. Three times he went over 1,000 yards receiving in a season — almost unheard of for that position. In a 1993 playoff game, Sharpe had 13 catches against Oakland, tying a record.
Sharpe patted his bust on the head Saturday before saying, “All these years later, it makes me proud when people call me a self-made man.”
In a captivating acceptance speech, Sharpe passionately made a pitch to get his brother, Sterling, who played seven years with the Packers, considered for election to the shrine. Sterling, who introduced his younger brother for induction, wept as Shannon praised him.
“I am the only player who has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and am the second-best player in my family,” Sharpe said.
“I am so honored. You don’t know what this means for me. This is the fraternity of all fraternities.”
Faulk was the running back of running backs for much of his 12-season career.
As versatile and dangerous a backfield threat as the NFL has seen, Faulk was voted the NFL’s top offensive player in 1999, 2000 and 2001, and was the NFL’s MVP in 2000. He was the league’s scoring leader in 2000 and ‘01, made seven Pro Bowls, and was the first player to gain 2,000 yards from scrimmage in four consecutive years.
The second overall draft pick in 1994, when Faulk was offensive rookie of the year, he played five seasons in Indianapolis, then his final seven for St. Louis, helping the Rams to their only Super Bowl victory in 1999.
Through tears, Faulk said, “Boy this is pretty special. ... I am glad to be a part of it. This is football heaven.
“I am a football fan just like all of you,” Faulk told the crowd. “I have always, always been a fan and had an abiding passion and love and respect for this game of football, even when I was a kid selling popcorn in the Superdome because I couldn’t afford a ticket.
“It’s tough going from the projects to the penthouse.”
Dent was a dynamic pass rusher on one of the NFL’s greatest defenses, the 1985 NFL champions. He was the MVP of that Super Bowl and finished with 137½ career sacks, third all-time when he left the sport.
He epitomized the Monsters of the Midway: fast, fierce and intimidating.
“Richard was like a guided missile,” Joe Gilliam, Dent’s college coach, said during his introduction.
“You must dream and you must be dedicated to something in your life,” added Dent, who asked everyone in the audience to rise in applause for Gilliam, then thanked dozens of people, including many from the ‘85 Bears who also were in the stadium. He saved his highest praise for the late Walter Payton.
“When you have dreams, it is very tough to say you can do everything by yourself,” Dent said. “It’s all about other people.”
Sabol made a life out of telling other people’s stories.
An aspiring filmmaker, Sabol approached Commissioner Pete Rozelle offering to double the rights fee for filming the 1962 NFL championship game between the Packers and Giants. Rozelle accepted the $3,000 and a wildly successful marriage was formed.
Seated in a wheelchair, the 94-year-old Sabol said he “dreamt the impossible dream, and I’m living it right at this minute.”
“This honor tonight really goes to NFL Films, I just happen to be accepting all the accolades,” Sabol added.
Sabol’s son, Steve, who replaced him as president of the company, introduced his father, about whom he said, “My sisters used to say my dad was two stooges short of a good routine. He loved to entertain.”
Hanburger called his induction “one of the greatest moments in my life and I mean that from my heart. I am just overwhelmed by this.”
Hanburger never let his job with the Redskins overwhelm him. He was the signal-caller for George Allen’s intricate defenses in Washington, which included dozens of formations.
He also was a physical player. Nicknamed “The Hangman,” Hanburger stood out for one violent move he practically patented in 14 seasons with the Redskins: the clothesline tackle, which eventually was outlawed.
A senior committee nominee, Hanburger made nine Pro Bowls in his 14 seasons, although he never won a championship. The linebacker’s knack for finding the ball helped him to 19 interceptions and three fumble returns for TDs, a league mark when he retired after the 1978 season.
Hanburger stared into the face of his bust before saying induction is “something that I never gave a thought to.”
Richter, who died last year, also was a senior nominee. He played nine seasons for the Los Angeles Rams, who acquired him in 1954 for 11 players after he was the second overall draft pick.
Richter served two years in the military, then became one of the most rugged defenders in the NFL. He made eight straight Pro Bowls while also seeing time at center and as a placekicker for part of his career. He retired in 1962 and went on to a successful career in motor sports.