In sports, there are few things worse than left wondering, what if? This question can mean a lot of things, but is most often uttered when talking about a player who put together a could mind-blowingly amazing seasons, only to have their career cut short by injury. Now, there is a lot of examples of this throughout the NFL of players who fit the bill, but there is no greater “what if” than former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver, Sterling Sharpe.
Sharpe grew up in Georgia with his grandma and siblings, which included future Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe and excelled at the sport of football. He was a multi sport athlete in high school but decided to focus on football once he was granted a scholarship to play for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
While in college, Sharpe was consistently one of the best players in the nation and was setting school records for South Carolina left and right. In fact, he is only the second player in school history to have his number retired while still being an active member of the team. He was so good that his coach, William Black, left his head coaching position at South Carolina and became a player manager for Sharpe.
After his illustrious college career, Sharpe had his sights set on the NFL. And in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft, the Packers selected him with the 6th overall pick. And right from his rookie season, people began to realize he was something special. He started all 16 games as a rookie with impressive numbers, but he ready blew up during his sophomore year.
By the end of his sophomore year Sterling Sharpe was considered by many as the best wide receiver in the NFL not named Jerry Rice as he had 90 catches for 1423 yards and 12 touchdowns, all as a sophomore. What Sharpe may have lacked in size (he was only generously listed at 5’11) he more than made up for in toughness. He was as sure handed as anybody and was not afraid to make the tough catches in traffic. His next two seasons were decent as well, but in 1992, things were about to get even better for him.
During his first few seasons with the Packers, the quarterbacks he had throwing to him were nothing special, but in 1992, a guy named Brett Favre came to town. And the two had chemistry right away. In fact, Sharpe had such a good season that he was only the sixth player ever to win the wide receiving triple crown, which meant to lead the league in receptions, yards and TDs.
Unfortunately, Sharpe’s career would be cut short two years later, in 1994, at only 29 years old. This is because of a neck injury he suffered during a game in the 1994 season. His six year career ended with totals of 595 catches, 8,134 yards and 65 TDs. His per game numbers are among the best of any WR ever and if he had remained healthy, there is a good chance he would’ve challenged or surpassed Jerry Rice as the best WR in NFL history.