Sharpe parachutes into Invesco
DENVER -- Parachuting into the stadium proved to be the easy part for Shannon Sharpe.
Delivering a speech in front of fans, former teammates and his family -- now that was nerve-racking.
The former tight end was inducted into the Denver Broncos' Ring of Fame at halftime of Sunday's game against Cleveland, choking up as he tried to talk.
"I really didn't plan on getting emotional," Sharpe said. "I can't say what this means to me."
And he was worried about the skydiving part.
Sharpe took three practice jumps in tandem with a professional parachuter leading up to the final spring Sunday.
He said it went off without a hitch.
Well, except for the nerves.
About 12,000 feet up, his hands began to sweat. The door of the plane flew open, and his heart began racing.
The instructor screamed "Go" and, gulp, off they tumbled out of the plane.
"You open your eyes and you're like, 'I'm OK,'" Sharpe said. "It's a great feeling."
Sharpe landed near the 10-yard line by the south end zone at Invesco Field before unhooking his harness and waving to the cheering crowd shortly before kickoff.
Too bad he didn't land in the end zone -- he got there enough in his playing days.
The tight end played 12 seasons in Denver, helping the Broncos win back-to-back titles in the late 1990s. He retired as the career leader among tight ends in receptions (815), yards (10,060) and touchdowns (62), marks that were later eclipsed by Tony Gonzalez.
On hand for the festivities to honor Sharpe were team owner Pat Bowlen and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
"Even in my wildest dreams when I was lying in bed in Glennville, Ga., lying in bed at night in my college dorm room at Savannah State, never in my wildest imagination did my career turn out like this," he said.
The scoreboard also showed highlights of his career, the fans erupting at his spectacular catches over the years.
Make him miss the game?
"It doesn't make me want to play," Sharpe said, laughing. "It makes me realize that I can't play anymore, because I can't do any of those things. But it made me realize how much I enjoyed the game. It made me realize how much these fans appreciated me and the way I played the game."
Next honor, Canton?
Bowlen certainly thinks Sharpe is a worthy candidate.
"If he doesn't get into the Hall of Fame, [it's a] tremendous injustice," Bowlen said.
As for skydiving, Sharpe said he's taken his last leap.
"I'm glad I got an opportunity to do this," he said. "I don't really foresee myself doing this anymore. But I can cross this one off my bucket list."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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