How many guys that only played seven seasons in the NFL deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?
Not many, but Sterling Sharpe is in that category.
For those that don't know, Sharpe's career was cut short by a neck injury. He first injured his neck in the second-to-last game of the 1994 season while blocking. When a tackle the next game resulted in numbness in his limbs, it was discovered he had damaged two vertebrae in his neck, and he was forced to retire.
That being said, there is only a small sample size on which to base a decision for Sharpe. However, that sample size is quite impressive.
In his seven seasons in the NFL, Sharpe scored 10 touchdowns or more four times and totaled 65 in his career. Pretty crazy numbers for a wide receiver. He also had five 1,000-yard receiving years. Of the two years he didn't reach 1,000 yards, one was his rookie season and the other time he fell just 39 yards short.
Over the course of his career, he had 595 receptions for a total of 8,134 yards, which gave him an average of 13.7 yards a reception.
Sharpe was named an All-Pro five times and chosen to the Pro Bowl five times as well. Three times he led the league in receptions and he twice led the NFL in receiving touchdowns. It's also worth noting that he holds the NFL record for consecutive games with at least four receptions at 34 straight.
Undoubtedly, if these numbers had been stretched over an entire career, he would have been a first-ballot inductee.
So should Sharpe be punished for choosing his health over the punishment of the NFL?
With the current high level of awareness of the risk of spinal and head injuries in the NFL, the time is right for Sharpe to earn his spot in the Hall of Fame.
The Green Bay Packers have already done by right by Sharpe, having put him in their hall, and now it's time for the NFL to give him the same recognition.
Sharpe's biggest supporter is his own brother, Shannon. Shannon campaigned for his brother Sterling in his Hall of Fame speech, saying:
“My big brother Sterling. I’m the only player of 267 men that’s walked through this building to my left that can honestly say this: I’m the only pro football player in the Hall of Fame, and I’m the second best player in my own family. If fate had dealt (Sterling) a different hand, there is absolutely no question in my mind we would have been the first brothers to be elected to the Hall of Fame."
Shannon then made a direct appeal to the voters.
“The 44 men and women that I thanked and congratulated earlier for giving me and bestowing this prestigious honor upon me, all I do is ask, all I can do is ask, and the most humblest way I know how, is that the next time you go into that room or you start making a list, look at Sterling Sharpe’s accomplishments.
For a seven-year period of the guy’s that are in the Hall of Fame at the receiver position and the guys that have the potential to be in this building. That’s all I ask. I don’t say, hey, just do that. The next time you go in that room, you think about Sterling Sharpe’s numbers for seven years. That’s all I ask.”
I agree with Shannon, but it will be interesting to see what the voters decide.