The Pro Football Hall of Fame committee nominated 94 players and coaches for the 2017 Hall of Fame induction class. It’s the typical mixed bag of a who’s who in football: holdovers from previous years, along with the shoo-ins and those that will require thought and scrutiny. But, there’s one name that’s already stirred controversy – Darren Sharper.
Looking back at the Saints Super Bowl season, few names stand out more for their contribution than Darren Sharpers. Along with Jonathan Vilma, Sharper and Sharper were the leaders of Greg Williams’ “bend but don’t break” takeaway driven troupe. The defense accounted for 45 takeaways in the 2009 season. Sharper alone had nine interceptions, three of those returned for touchdowns. His play exemplified what free safety play should be: cover territory, play instinctively, be the last line of coverage, and find the football and attack it.
Sharper was drafted in 1997; a second round pick out of William and Mary College in Virginia. He began his career as a free safety with the Green Bay Packers. During his rookie year, Sharper intercepted two passes and returned both for touchdowns. After eight seasons in Green Bay, he signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2005. Again, Sharper was a dominant force despite being moved to strong safety his second year in Minnesota. He played 4 seasons with the Vikings and became an unrestricted free agent, which is when he became a Saint racking up nine interceptions, the 3 returned for TD’s in the Super bowl, along with 71 combined tackles and 15 passes defensed.
Sharper set several records during the 2009 Super Bowl campaign:
- Setting the Saints record for longest interception returned for a touchdown (99 yards against the Jets)
- Broke Destrehan native Ed Reed’s record for interception return yards, amassing 376 return yards
- Tied Deion Sanders for the most games with a 50+ yard interception return (9)
- Set the record for the most games with a 75+ yard interception return (6)
Sharper’s 13 non-offensive touchdowns are 5th all-time. His 63 interceptions are 8th all-time, and his 1,412 career interception return yards were bettered only by Ed Reed and Rod Woodson. Woodson is already in the Hall of Fame, and Reed will be a first ballot entry in the Class of 2018.
Darren Sharper’s football legacy shows he deserves to be included among the busts in Canton – but another “bust” will hinder his opportunity. Sharper is sitting in prison for drugging and raping women in at least four states. His arrest and conviction have placed him on a list headed for a different type of notoriety.
When Sharper’s name was offered up for consideration for the Hall of Fame, it caught folks by surprise. The debate will be, is a person’s off the field record grounds for disqualifying them from consideration for the Hall of Fame? Many will say yes, however the Hall of Fame is an all-encompassing entity. It’s a living breathing legacy to all accomplishments in life and football. Others will say no, your accomplishments on the field of play is the criteria by which we judge that person for the Hall of Fame. Off the field judge not, lest ye be judged.
O.J. Simpson’s bust still sits in Canton, Ohio. The “Juice” was never convicted of the double murder of his former wife and her boyfriend, but he’s long considered guilty in the court of public opinion. And in the aftermath of that incident, Simpson finds himself in prison for robbing and threatening a person with a gun. The difference may be, he was already enshrined. It’s harder to take someone out than it is to disallow someone from going in.
Darren Sharper’s William and Mary Athletics Hall of Fame award has already been removed. You’ll find Mike Tomlin’s name among the famous graduates of William and Mary, but Sharper’s name is spoken there in very hushed tones. It’s to be certain those tones will be much louder when the debate begins over whether or not he should be allowed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thoughts? Leave them in the comments. We’d love to hear your take on what you think of Darren Sharper.