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Way Back When: Broncos, Ravens share a Hall of Famer in Shannon Sharpe


With the Denver Broncos set to play against the Baltimore Ravens, I have some thought to who the most notable Baltimore Ravens Hall of Famer is.

Considering that the Ravens were previously the Cleveland Browns, did my mind jump to running back Jim Brown?

Considering that the Baltimore Colts preceded the Ravens in the Maryland city, might it be great quarterback Johnny Unitas or someone else from that fabulous era?

But to me, the first Hall of Famer from the Baltimore Ravens to come to my mind is tight end Shannon Sharpe, who played primarily for the Broncos before his sojourn in Baltimore.

A 2009 inductee into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, Sharpe spent 12 record-setting seasons in the Mile High City. A fan favorite in Denver, he played a vital role in the Broncos' back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998.

He had a unique brand of self-confidence and talked a lot. But Sharpe was always bluntly honest and backed up every word with both his play on the field and steady leadership on the team. When Shannon lifted weights religiously, so did everyone else.

We played like Shannon talked.

He played for Denver from 1990-99 and then again from 2002-03, and in between those times, he was a Baltimore Raven.

The Ravens were trying to build a championship team and saw Shannon as not just a great tight end, but as a leader who could bring championship character to Baltimore. Almost immediately, Sharpe earned the third world championship of his career and endeared himself forever to Baltimore fans in 2000.

He was absolutely a key performer who reached every goal the Ravens had hoped for when they signed him.

In the AFC Championship Game at Oakland that year, Sharpe scored the only touchdown on an 96-yard touchdown pass.

I remember his words to a Ravens staffer during the week preceding the game. The staffer admitted to being nervous about the Raiders' notorious Black Hole and the cast of nefarious characters who tried to intimidate the visiting team.

"Are those guys all playing?" Shannon noted. "Because I thought it was just 11-on-11 on the field."

Naturally, that calmed all feelings and the Ravens went on to win.

I got a call one day from Shannon, when he was in Baltimore, saying that he wanted to give a gift to each quarterback to complete a pass to him, in honor of his 500th reception.

I noted that he had a wonderful PR staff in Baltimore, but he replied, "Sacco, you're my guy. I want you to research it for me."

Such was the nature and charm of Shannon Sharpe that I could not say no. So I immediately agreed and here in Denver researched every completion ever for the Ravens tight end.

And then he came back to Denver, from Baltimore, for his final two seasons on his way to Canton, Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He brought his unique brand of character and leadership with him, and even though we did not win another Super Bowl in his return, that was due more to the overall talent of the team than to Sharpe.

But when I think of the Baltimore Ravens, my mind always turns to the tight end who won Super Bowls with both teams, and captured the hearts of fans in both cities along the way.

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