But it took much more than talk and showmanship to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where both men were enshrined Saturday night along with Marshall Faulk, Richard Dent, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter and Ed Sabol.
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Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, 222 Market Ave N, Canton, OH 44702-1418, USA
"The people from the Hall of Fame tell me I have only 8 to 10 minutes. No chance," Sharpe said at the start of his induction speech Saturday night. "It may come as a shock, but I love to talk. This is the fraternity of all fraternities."
"For 44 men and women (on the Selection Committee) to say: 'You know what, Shannon Sharpe? You deserve to be there' ...I am a sentimental type of a guy," said Sharpe as his voice trailed off Friday, the day before his induction. He was a member of three NFL championship teams, including the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV winners.
Sharpe followed his brother, Sterling Sharpe, into the NFL in 1990 when the Denver Broncos selected him in the seventh round out of Savannah State. At the time of his retirement, Sharpe's 815 career receptions and 10,060 yards and 62 TDs were all NFL career records for a tight end. He tied an NFL record with 13 receptions in a single post-season game (vs. the Raiders in 1993).
Sharpe spent two years in Baltimore and led the Ravens in receptions (67) and receiving yards (810) in 2000, their Super Bowl season.
Sanders entered the NFL with greater fanfare than Sharpe as the first-round draft pick (5th overall) of the Atlanta Falcons out of Florida State in 1989. His 14-year career ended with the Ravens in 2004 and 2005 following stops with the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins.
While he was renowned for being a "shutdown" cornerback, Sanders also returned kicks using his exceptional speed and field awareness. In an auspicious debut, Sanders returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown in his first game. Sanders would go on to score six touchdowns on punt returns and three TDs on kickoff returns. He also returned nine interceptions for TDs during his career. Sanders helped win two Super Bowls: one with the 49ers and one with Dallas.