Darren Sharper is a former NFL safety who played for the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and New Orleans Saints over the course of his 14-year career. Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1975, Sharper attended Hermitage High School, where he excelled in both football and track and field. He went on to play college football at William & Mary College, where he was a standout player for the Tribe. Originally coming to William and Mary as a quarterback, Sharper eventually moved to safety where he intercepted 10 passes in his senior season. He ended his career with 24 interceptions and a Division I-AA record 468 return yards.
Sharper did not display any overwhelming physical characteristics at the NFL combine in 1997. He measured in at 6’2” 206 lbs. and ran a 4.64 forty yard dash. Still, he was drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He quickly became a starter on the Packers’ defense, and in his rookie season, he helped lead the team to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI. Sharper’s playmaking ability was evident from the start of his career; he finished his rookie season with four interceptions and six passes defended.
Over the course of his eight seasons with the Packers, Sharper established himself as one of the premier safeties in the NFL. He earned Pro Bowl honors five times and was a first-team All-Pro selection three times. He also continued to be a ballhawk, intercepting 36 passes during his time in Green Bay, including a career-high nine interceptions in 2000.
Sharper’s success on the field was due in part to his exceptional athleticism and football instincts. He was a big, rangy safety who had the speed and agility to cover receivers deep down the field, but he was also a physical player who was not afraid to come up and make tackles in the box. His intelligence and preparation also played a big role in his success; he was known for studying game film extensively and being able to read quarterbacks’ intentions before the snap.
In 2005, Sharper signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent. He continued to play at a high level in Minnesota, earning Pro Bowl honors twice in his four seasons with the team. He also continued to be a playmaker, intercepting 18 passes and returning three of them for touchdowns during his time with the Vikings.
In 2009, Sharper signed with the New Orleans Saints, and it was there that he had the most successful season of his career. He played a key role in the Saints’ defense that year, intercepting nine passes and returning three of them for touchdowns. He was also a leader on the field and in the locker room, helping the team to a victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
I don’t normally include much about player’s personal lives in these segments but in Sharper’s case, it is necessary. Considering the many accomplishments he had on the field, readers not around during the era in which he played would wonder why he is not talked about more. Despite Sharper’s on-field success, his career was ultimately overshadowed by his off-field actions. In 2014, he was accused of drugging and raping multiple women in different states. He eventually pleaded guilty to multiple charges and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2016.
Sharper’s criminal actions were a shocking end to what had been a successful football career. He finished his career with 63 interceptions, 11 of which he returned for touchdowns, and 13 forced fumbles. He was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s and was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2018. However, his criminal actions have tarnished his legacy and serve as a cautionary tale about the importance of personal responsibility and accountability.
In the wake of Sharper’s crimes, the NFL has taken steps to address the issue of sexual assault and domestic violence among its players. The league has implemented new policies and programs aimed at educating players and preventing these types of incidents from occurring in the future. While Sharper’s actions were a dark moment in the history of the league, they have also served as a catalyst for change and a reminder of the importance of respect and consent in all aspects of life.
Chad Wilson is the owner of All Eyes DB Camp and author of "101 DB Tips". He played college football at the University of Miami and briefly in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks. Over his 15 year high school football coaching career, he tutored over a dozen Division I defensive backs and as a trainer has worked with NFL All Pros, first round draft picks, college football All Americans and Top 10 ranked high school football prospects.