Shannon Sharpe: A $50 Phone Bill Got Me Focused on the NFL

As a student at Savannah State University in the late 1980s, Shannon Sharpe was ready to accept any NFL offer to support his grandmother, who raised him.

Shannon Sharpe
ATLANTA, GA – FEBRUARY 02: NFL player Shannon Sharpe attends the 8th Annual NFL Honors at The Fox Theatre on February 2, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Money was Tight

Back in 2020, when Sharpe appeared as a guest on the “All the Smoke” Podcast, hosted by NBA stars Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, he spoke about life with his grandmother and what it taught him. A clip from this episode has recently resurfaced.

In the clip, Sharpe also recounted a story about the financial hard times he and his grandmother were going through. He said his grandmother couldn’t accept collect calls from him when he was away at university. She was unable to accept his calls because she had an unpaid phone bill. And most likely Sharpe didn’t have the coins to call his grandmother directly, as the town his grandmother was in, Glennville, and Savannah are less than 80 miles apart and share an area code.

“I remember because we had community phones,” said Sharpe of the shared phone he and his schoolmates used.

He continued, “I’m gonna call my grandma. … So I get on the phone. I call collect. The operator comes on the phone and says yes. I said, ‘I’d like to place a collect call to Mary Porter from Shannon Sharpe.’

“The operator comes on, and [told my grandmother] ‘This is a collect call to Mary Porter from Shannon Sharpe. Will you accept it?’ My grandmother said, ‘No. I can’t pay the $50 phone bill I got right now,’ and hung the phone up.”

Sharpe played for the Savannah State Tigers’ Division II football team from 1986 to 1989, making the All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection from 1987 to 1989.

“I left my grandmother’s house in ’86, and I had two bags, two grocery bags, Piggly Wiggly bags, for my luggage. I didn’t have a suitcase and had to buy bags with all my belongings. I was going to Savannah State, and in 1987 I was a sophomore,” Sharpe told the hosts.

He was named the SIAC Player of the Year in 1987. In 1989, he was selected as a Kodak Division II All-American.

He led Savannah State to their best records of 7-3 in 1988 and 8-1 in 1989.

The attachment Shape, now host of the popular podcast “Club Shay Shay,” had for his grandmother, someone whom he lived with since the age of 2, and “slept in the very bed with my grandmother until I was 15. I didn’t get out of my grandmother’s bed until my brothers left and went to college,” was a motivator for the young athlete.

Hi grandmother died in 2011.

He was focused on getting into the NFL. “That was the only thing that mattered, and when I got to the league, the only thing that mattered was football, not women.”

Today, Sharpe is far way from his humble beginnings. As Finurah previously reported, Sharpe, who has an estimated net worth of $14 million, was drafted by the Denver Broncos out of Savannah State in the seventh round in 1990, and he eventually became a Hall of Famer with three championships to his name.

He retired in 2003 after playing for 14 seasons, having set records for the most catches, yards, and touchdowns by a tight end.

Currently, Sharpe, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011, is on the verge of securing a multi-year contract with ESPN, following his impactful stint at FS1 and the success of his popular podcasts. He already has a contract with ESPN, regularly appearing as a guest on “First Take” alongside primary host Stephen A. Smith and moderator Molly Qerim. 

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