It’s the Packers offseason and there’s plenty of drama to talk about. However, I actually want to steer away from all that and continue my “Spotlight On” series. My idea is to highlight players that made major contributions to Lambeau, but may not be as well known today. This past season, a friend and I got to talking about Davante Adams and the Packers’ success on offense. He would repeatedly bring up Sterling Sharpe. I had heard the name before but never knew much about him. It wasn’t until I started to dig into who Sterling was that I realized he was an absolute superstar. So with that being said, let’s do a “Spotlight On” Sterling Sharpe.
Sterling Sharpe was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 6th, 1965 but grew up in Glennville, Georgia at his grandmother’s house. Because of his parents’ unstable marriage, Sterling (along with brother Shannon and their sister Libby) spent his childhood with his grandmother as their primary caregiver. His younger brother Shannon would go on to become an NFL Hall Of Famer in his own right. Both Sharpe boys were dedicated athletes and their pro careers attest to that.
Sterling Sharpe was a multi-sport athlete. At Glenville High School, he played running back, quarterback, and linebacker. Along with football, he was a member of the basketball and track teams. Yet, it wasn’t until college that he would find his true position.
Sterling would find his calling at wide receiver when he attended the University Of South Carolina. Sharpe amassed a huge career as a Gamecock. He set school records with 169 career receptions and 2,497 receiving yards, and a record at the time of 17 touchdowns. His record 11 touchdowns in a season as a Gamecock wasn’t broken until 2005. Because of his huge success, Sterling was the second player in Gamecock history to have his number (2) retired while still playing for that school. His illustrious college career would land him in Green Bay, where he would be an immediate factor.
The Beginning With Green Bay
Sterling Sharpe would hear his named called as the seventh pick in the 1988 NFL Draft. As a rookie he had an immediate impact, catching 55 balls and starting in all 16 games. The next year, his second as a pro, he would lead the league in receptions with 90. He was the first Packer to achieve this feat since Don Hutson in 1945. That same year he broke Hutson’s Packer record of receptions and yards, a record that stood for nearly 50 years. Sharpe did all of this before a guy by the name of Brett Favre had even stepped foot on the Lambeau grass.
Sterling and Favre
It’s 1992 and there’s a new guy behind center in Green Bay. It didn’t take long at all for Brett Favre and Sterling Sharpe to form a great relationship. That season, they were one of the best tandems in the league. During the final game of that 1992 season, Sterling broke the record for most receptions in a season with 107. A record that had stood since 1984 was broken in Green Bay. But likely, the most impressive stat is that Sterling is one of only seven NFL Receivers who were honored with the “Triple Crown” award. This is for one player who leads the league in reception touchdowns, reception yards, and overall receptions.
The next year in 1993, Sharpe broke his previous record and ended up with 112 receptions. This also made him the first player to have consecutive seasons catching more than 100 passes. In 1994, his 18 touchdown receptions were second most all time, behind Jerry Rice’s 22 in 1987.
A Career Cut Far Too Short
Sharpe would unfortunately have his career cut short by a neck injury. The saddest part is that in the 1996 season, the Packers would go on to win the Super Bowl without him. In his short career, Sterling Sharpe was a Pro Bowler five times and an NFL All-Pro thrice. Sterling’s younger brother Shannon would go on to win three Super Bowls as well. Knowing what could have been, Shannon gave his brother Sterling the first of his three Super Bowl rings. Shannon cited his brother as a major influence, along with his grandmother, saying “Everything I know about being a man, about football, everything I know about sports, pretty much in life, is because of those two people.”
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As always, Go Pack Go!