Hall-of-Fame GM Ron Wolf: Sterling Sharpe was "a perfect football player"

Photo courtesy of Pro Football Journal

Clark Judge

(EDITOR'S NOTE: To listen to Ron Wolf on fullpressradio.com, just log on here: https://www.spreaker.com/user/fullpresscoverage/app-recording-20201020-1006)

Former Green Bay wide receiver Sterling Sharpe isn’t among the 130 players on the preliminary list for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame's Class of 2021, and that’s not an oversight. His 20 years of eligibility as a modern-era candidate expired this year.

So that makes him a senior candidate, and good luck. Once remote chances of reaching Canton just got worse.

Two reasons: 1) The pool of seniors is knee deep in qualified Hall-of-Fame aspirants, including 59 all-decade choices, and 2) voters barely recognized Sterling Sharpe the past 20 years. Correction: They didn’t recognize him. He was never a finalist or semifinalist.

Puzzling? More like incomprehensible. Sterling Sharpe was a dominant wide receiver until a neck injury in 1994 abruptly ended his career.

He was invited to the Pro Bowl five times in seven years of play. He was a first-team All-Pro three times. He led the league in receptions three times, in touchdowns twice and in yardage once. Heck, he led the league in all three categories in 1992, becoming the sixth player in league history to win the “Triple Crown” of receiving.

He broke league receiving records. He broke Don Hutson’s Packers’ records. He did virtually everything but have a long career, which is another way of saying: He is Hall-of-Fame worthy.

But tell that to voters who stiff-armed Sharpe the past two decades. Not once did they make Sharpe one of the Hall’s 25 annual semifinalists, and I don’t get it. Then again, neither does former Green Bay GM Ron Wolf, elected to Canton in 2015 and who appeared on this week’s “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com to stand up for Sharpe.

“I think what made him so special,” Wolf said, “was he was really tough and really dedicated to the game in his way. He was not intimidated by anything … or anybody … or any situation. He’s a perfect football player. I don’t know what else to add to that.

“He could do everything you would want a receiver to do. He would go anywhere to catch a ball. He would go in and catch it. He would go out and catch it. He would run hooks, run outs, run ups. He was just an exceptional football player.”

In Sharpe’s last season he caught a career-best 18 touchdown passes, then second only to Jerry Rice’s 22 in 1987 as a single-season record. The previous year he became the first player to have consecutive 100-catch seasons, with a then-league record 112 which broke his own mark of 107 set in 1992.

But then he was gone, the victim of a neck injury suffered in the last two games of 1994, and he’s been forgotten ever since … at least by Hall-of-Fame voters who valued durability.

However, the elections of Terrell Davis and Kenny Easley in 2017 changed that dialogue and should’ve helped Sharpe, whose career lasted from 1988 through 1994. Unfortunately, they didn’t. He’s never been a blip on the Canton radar, and it's time someone schools voters on what they’re missing.

Wolf was only too happy to volunteer.

“What they need to know,” he said, “is that you have to consider who he played for. He played for a lousy Green Bay Packers' team until Mike Holmgren and I got there and kind of changed the fortunes. But he’s the reason for the change.

“In 1992, with that collection of players that we had, Mike Holmgren and his staff were able go 9-7 and have a winning record – which was remarkable. But the real reason for that was Brett Favre and Sterling Sharpe.

“I’m sure every defensive coordinator that got ready to play the Packers said, ‘All we have to do is take Sharpe away, and we’ll beat them.’ Well, you know what? They never took him away. He led the league in receptions.

“He was just a tremendous football player. Hard to believe that he was as good as he was, considering what he had around him as a team.”

Harder to believe he was as good as he was, and Canton hasn’t noticed.

Comments (5)
No. 1-4
brian wolf
brian wolf

Great Call, Clark ...

Its obvious that having a short career has hurt him but never being a semifinalist ?

Now you have have to wonder where he ranks amongst deserving seniors ?
Unlike today's stat grabbing receivers, Sharpe had to deal with safeties wanting to break you in half ...

Take away Rice and Irvin and Sharpe could have been All-Pro five seasons, with excellent years in 90 and his last season in 94 with 18 TD catches ...

Despite three seasons with six or fewer TDs, he still averaged over nine TDs per season throughout his career ...

He and Butler could be victims of Packer fatigue, which has plagued other great players like Dilweg, Lewellen, Howton, Dale, Dowler, Thurston and Gillingham. Some people like Isbell but his career was shorter than Sharpe's.

Though I like some seniors over Sharpe, he is deserving and with a rotating voting committee, could be a dark horse sometime ...

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

Wow...never even a semi-finalist...that is a complete shocker to me...Anytime the Packers were on tv, I thought he was not only the best wr, but the best player in the game...With all the great Packers still waiting it's going to be tough to get in...An argument could be made that he is among the top 5 Packers not in.

1 Reply

Plawren2
Plawren2

Short careers are rare in the Hall (7 years or less), so not shocking to me that he never made semi finalist list as modern candidate. He is deserving and likely get a shot one day as senior but given that the voters never advanced him as semi-finalist as modern seems unlikely there is much immediate interest in his case.

Plawren2
Plawren2

best player in game in early 90s??? Better than Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Steve Young, and John Elway

brian wolf
brian wolf

Its too bad Andre Rison basically regressed during that time period when he joined the Browns in 1995. Though he got a SB ring in 96 and had another excellent season in KC in 1997, he never could keep his career going to a HOF level and its a shame, because like Sharpe, he had the great ability.


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