Sterling Sharpe was the greatest South Carolina football player of all time.
There, I said it. And I mean it. And yes, I’m well aware George Rogers won the Heisman. I didn’t have the benefit of seeing Big George play very much as I was 11 years old and only on the verge of beginning to realize my undying love for college football. Plus, unfortunately there were no 24-hour sports networks to broadcast his exploits day and night. Nonetheless…
I was a freshman at South Carolina when Sterling Sharpe was a senior. I can assure you I’ve never seen a player quite like him in a Gamecock uniform, and I have my doubts I ever will again. He had the ability to dissect defenses with his speed and ultra-smooth moves. By the time he was a senior his work in the weight room had given him an additional element of power not many could match on the college level. “Ellis to Sharpe” was a staple of every Gamecock’s vocabulary.
Sharpe was drafted in the first round by the Packers, and went on to be an All-Pro in five of his six seasons with the team. In 1992 he broke the NFL single-season receptions record, and then for good measure broke his own record in 1993.
Sharpe’s career was unfortunately cut short by a severe neck injury suffered in 1994. Had that injury not occured he would surely be an NFL Hall of Famer, and I believe he would be mentioned shortly after Jerry Rice in conversations about the greatest receivers of all time.
Sharpe caught a little flack last year for refusing to “unretire” the #2 and allow Alshon Jeffery to wear it. Personally, I would be more concerned about a high school player who chooses his college based on the number he wears (which thankfully Alshon did not). Sharpe’s loyalty to the university has been questioned on occasion because he doesn’t give us “shout outs” from his broadcasting gig, doesn’t hit the recruiting trail for us, and rarely shows up for USC alumni-type events.
That stuff really doesn’t bother me so much. He’s my favorite Gamecock of all time, and I hope he’s the last #2 I ever see in a South Carolina football uniform.