Elway wants to see Shannon Sharpe in HOF

John Elway thought he’d be joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by one of his most unique teammates two years ago.

The fact that Elway is still waiting for Shannon Sharpe to join him in the Canton, Ohio, museum stuns him.

"I didn’t expect this,” Elway said. “I really thought Shannon would get in his first try. To me, he’s the greatest tight end ever to play the game. Hopefully, this is the year. It should be.”

Sharpe is a finalist -- former Raiders receiver Tim Brown and former Chiefs tackle Willie Roaf are also among the 17 finalists -- for election into the Hall of Fame. The voting and announcement of the 2011 class will be made Saturday. This is Sharpe’s third year as a finalist.

Sharpe played in Denver 1990-99 and 2002-03. He had 671 of his career receptions in Denver and was a key member of Denver’s two Super Bowl teams in 1997 and 1998.

Sharpe is credited by many league observers with changing the tight end position.

“Shannon helped make us a unique offense,” Elway said this week. “He was a matchup problem for defenses. He really opened up our offense and helped make us very difficult to play against.”

Elway, who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility, didn’t know anything about Sharpe when Sharpe joined the Broncos as a seventh-round pick from tiny Savannah State. However, Elway was intrigued as soon as he saw Sharpe, who was drafted as a receiver. Elway saw the framework of a receiving option he never had before. Sharpe was 6-foot-2, 228 pounds. Elway wasn’t used to throwing to big targets.

“I was used to the Three Amigos,” Elway said. “Seeing how big Shannon was really lit my eyes up. He was so raw, but he worked so hard and then when we moved him to tight end, he really blossomed into something special.”

Because he was considered a receiver, Sharpe’s Hall of Fame candidacy has been slowed because there is a logjam of receiving candidates. Elway thinks Sharpe hasn’t been given enough credit for being a complete tight end.

“I really think Shannon has been underestimated in the running game,” said Elway, who became the Broncos’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations last month. “He was as strong as a 250-pounder. He really fit our zone-blocking scheme well. We were a finesse team. He was a perfect fit in every way. ... I hope the voters put him in this year, because he belongs in.”