Packers: Sterling Sharpe gets one step closer to the Hall of Fame

(Photo by James V. Biever/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
(Photo by James V. Biever/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Legendary Green Bay Packers wide receiver Sterling Sharpe has taken one step closer in his bid to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023. Sharpe joins fellow Packers great Cecil Isbell in the Hall of Fame’s “senior category” — players whose final NFL game was prior to 1996.

Sharpe and Isbell are two of twelve total finalists in this category, of which three players will be selected and moved forward to the final vote made by the full Hall of Fame selection committee. This selection will be announced on August 16.

After Packers fans campaigned heavily for the induction of LeRoy Butler over the past decade, his eventual entrance into the Hall of Fame this past January has shifted attention towards the next Packers icon deserving of the ultimate recognition.

Had Sterling Sharpe’s career not been cut short due to a vertebrae injury which forced him to retire at 29 years old, there’s a strong chance he would have been inducted much sooner. Prior to the injury, Sharpe had amassed five 1,000-yard seasons and three first-team All-Pro selections in just seven years in the NFL. He also became only the sixth receiver in league history to achieve the vaunted “triple crown”.

Due to his short career, Sterling Sharpe’s volume stats don’t quite meet the lofty expectations which the Hall of Fame is accustomed to, however per Pro Football Reference, Sharpe ranks 19th all-time in receiving yards per game.

Of the eight retired players who rank above Sharpe in this statistic, only two (Torry Holt and Andre Johnson) are still waiting on induction into the Hall of Fame, with both players in with a good chance in 2023.

Sterling Sharpe’s younger brother Shannon famously vouched for Sterling’s Hall of Fame consideration during his 2011 induction speech.

“If fate had dealt you a different hand there is no question in my mind we would have been the first brothers to be elected into the Hall of Fame. The 44 men and women that I thanked and congratulated earlier for bestowing this prestigious honor upon me, all I do is ask in the most humble way I know how, that the next time you go into that room or you start making a list, look at Sterling Sharpe’s accomplishments.”

Sterling was inducted into the Packers’ Hall of Fame in 2002, and 20 years on he is finally making his first big push for Canton. The chances that Sterling is inducted this year are admittedly quite slim, but as time goes on the field of senior nominees becomes shallower, and players slowly climb their way up the voting polls. That was the case for LeRoy Butler, and it’ll probably be the same for Sharpe.

Elsewhere, Super Bowl XXXI winning head coach Mike Holmgren was nominated as one of twelve finalists in the coach/contributor category, of which only one will move on to the last stage of the selection process. It won’t be easy for Holmgren as other nominees include the likes of Don Coryell, Robert Kraft and Mike Shanahan.