Former Ravens Sharpe, Sanders make Hall of Fame

Tight end helped Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV

corner spent final years in Baltimore

February 05, 2011|By David Haugh, Tribune Newspapers

DALLAS — — All Shannon Sharpe thought about all Saturday was whether his 88-year-old grandmother, Mary Porter ever would see him get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I thought if it doesn't happen today…,'' Sharpe began, his voice trailing. "The only thing I've ever wanted was to make my grandmother proud and I said if I don't get in, she's not going to hear me thank her and be able to give a speech. Granny, thanks for everything you did. I'm the man I am today because of you.''

Sharpe, a member of the Ravens Super Bowl team, was one of seven men elected into the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday by a 44-member panel that met for 71/2 hours to pare down a list of 15 finalists. Deion Sanders, the flashy cornerback who ended his career with the Ravens, also made the cut. The five others who will be inducted Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio are running back Marshall Faulk, defensive end Richard Dent, linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.

Sharpe starred for Denver and Baltimore for 14 seasons and won three Super Bowls in a four-year span (the first two with Denver). He held league records for a tight end in receptions, yards and touchdowns when he retired in 2003.

"If I had a thousand tongues, I couldn't say how happy and proud I am," Sharpe said. "I don't know what I did to deserve this.

Sharpe signed with the Ravens in 2000 and spent two seasons with the team. He caught 140 passes for 1,621 yards and seven touchdowns.

Sanders, the outstanding cornerback/kick returner and sometime wide receiver known as "Prime Time" with five teams, is a two-time Super Bowl winner and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. Sanders ended a three-year retirment from football to join the Ravens — in part at the behest of linebacker Ray Lewis — in 2004. He played 25 games over two season and had five interceptions.

Three former Ravens have now been elected to the hall; safety Rod Woodson received the necessary votes in 2009.

Faulk fought back tears when asked about what this meant to his mother, Cecile, but composed himself to express his gratitude.

"I wanted the ball in my hands so I could so something with it," Faulk said.

Few will have traveled a more circuitous road to Canton than Dent. An eighth-round draft pick out of Tennessee State by the Bears, he had 1371/2 career sacks.

"I'm very happy … it was a long time coming,'' said Dent, a finalist in seven of the previous eight years. "When you start a career you never think about the Hall of Fame, but watching a guy like Walter Payton he would say, 'Don't do what I say, do what I do.' If you can do your thing the way he does his, the possibility is you will get in the Hall of Fame.''

Hanburger played all 14 pro seasons with the Redskins and made nine Pro Bowls thanks to attacking style that included clothesline tackles. That earned him the nickname "The Hangman."

"I am just overwhelmed," Hanburger said. "It's such a tremendous honor to be nominated, let alone get in. Have to think of all the men who played before me and all the men I played with."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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