1Shannon Sharpe knows funny.
He became the mouth that roared during two different stints with the Broncos over 12 breathtaking seasons. He regaled reporters with stories like the one that began his trash-talking career in elementary school. A young boy began reciting from a textbook, and mumbled for several moments. The teacher said, “sounds like, sounds like …” To which Sharpe responded, “Sounds like (Johnny) can’t read.”
Few appreciated Sharpe’s biting sense of humor as much as owner Pat Bowlen. The two struck up a friendship unusual to player and boss. They could share stories and make jokes at each other’s expense. Bowlen respected Sharpe.
“He knew he never had to worry about me getting in trouble or not preparing the right way,” Sharpe said.
Given how seriously Sharpe took his craft, Bowlen appreciated the star’s levity. Sharpe made fun of teammates for their garish outfits. It was kind of his thing when they walked into the locker room. One lazy day, he took a bold step, making Bowlen his target.
On most days, the fit and athletic Bowlen would pass through without comment. On this day, he was headed to the trainer’s office to talk with Steve Antonopulos. Sharpe couldn’t resist. He grabbed a pair of his team-issued shorts and cut them in a way that would make John Stockton blush. He stretched up his tube socks as if he were heading to a shuffleboard tournament. Eye glasses, big and impossible to miss, provided the final piece of the wardrobe as Bowlen came around the corner.
“Mr. B walked in and saw me looking like him with runner’s shorts and high socks and said, ‘You (bleep)!’ ” Sharpe recalled. “He loved it. He was such a competitor at everything he did. I got him. We both laughed about it. It’s the kind of relationship we had. He really (was) an amazing man.
“He never wanted to take any credit. He wanted everybody else to get the credit. But we couldn’t have done it without him. He gave us everything we needed to win, because it was his burning desire.”
Sharpe will always remember his impact. But it paled compared to their friendship.
“I think he knew when I was going to be working out in the weight room because he was always coming down,” Sharpe said. “He’d get on the treadmill or the elliptical or get on the bike. From about ’93 until I walked out of there, he was always challenging me. He could run longer than I could on the treadmill, he could put up better numbers on the bike than I could, and we were always going back and forth.”