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Ravens regular-season moment No. 1: Beating Jacksonville

Posted on 29 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 2 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE and the entire top 25 list HERE.

Novelty and nostalgia had defined the Baltimore Ravens.

A new generation of Baltimoreans finally had a team after 12 years in the NFL doldrums, but the Ravens were much closer to being the Bengals than the Steelers in those early years, going 16-31-1 in their first three seasons and finishing no higher than fourth in the old AFC Central. General manager Ozzie Newsome was building a promising foundation anchored by left tackle Jonathan Ogden and middle linebacker Ray Lewis — two Pro Bowl talents and the first two draft picks in team history — but no one knew exactly when or if that work would pay off.

From playing their first two seasons at Memorial Stadium and hiring Ted Marchibroda as their first head coach to the Baltimore Colts marching band playing and Johnny Unitas and other legends attending games, the Ravens were draped in Baltimore football history. It was a smart and heartwarming nod to the past, but the organization ultimately needed its own legacy after relocating from Cleveland in 1996.

Those Ravens were somewhere between the old Browns and the new Colts, but they were nowhere near NFL relevancy.

The 1999 campaign brought flashes in December with the Ravens winning for the first time in Pittsburgh and blowing out eventual AFC champion Tennessee on their way to an 8-8 finish, but a couple good performances playing out the string after a 3-7 start couldn’t be viewed as a definitive breakthrough. Brian Billick’s second year as head coach would tell the truth.

Baltimore opened the 2000 season with an impressive 16-0 win at Pittsburgh, building on the significant defensive improvement shown during the previous season. But the bigger test would come in Week 2 when the Ravens hosted Jacksonville for the home opener at PSINet Stadium.

The Ravens had never beaten the Jaguars, who had become the class of the AFC Central shortly after their expansion start in 1995. An 0-8 mark consisting of squandered leads, the occasional blowout, and plenty of last-minute heartbreak best illustrated how far Baltimore still needed to come while Jacksonville was coming off its fourth straight postseason appearance, a 14-2 record, and a trip to the AFC Championship game.

No breakthrough appeared imminent in the first quarter as Pro Bowl quarterback Mark Brunell and Pro Bowl wide receiver Jimmy Smith shredded the Baltimore defense for 45- and 43-yard touchdown passes and Billick’s team trailed 17-0 at the end of the period. These looked like the same old Ravens.

Still trying to cement the starting job after a solid finish to 1999, quarterback Tony Banks threw a touchdown to rookie wide receiver Travis Taylor to put the Ravens on the board, but the rest of the second quarter wasn’t much better than the first with the Jaguars adding two more field goals to take a 23-7 lead into halftime. This wasn’t what anyone in Baltimore had wanted, but old habits die hard, especially against Jacksonville.

“At halftime, I told them one thing,” Billick said. “What I told them was, win or lose, it will make no difference. The second half will define who we are. How we conduct ourselves will define the kind of team we are.”

The Ravens took those words to heart coming out of the locker room as the offense needed only four plays to find the end zone with Banks throwing another touchdown to Taylor. A two-point conversion cut the deficit to 23-15 and brought a previously frustrated sold-out crowd to life.

A Banks interception on the next drive led to the fourth Mike Hollis field goal of the day, but the 27-year-old quarterback bounced back with a touchdown pass to fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo, making the score 26-22 late in the third quarter. The stage was set for a thrilling final period.

After punting on their first possession of the fourth quarter, the Ravens collected their second takeaway of the day when outside linebacker Jamie Sharper forced a fumble and recovered the ball at the Jacksonville 12. Banks threw a touchdown to the speedy Jermaine Lewis on the next play as Baltimore took a 29-26 lead with 10 minutes to go.

Maybe it would be different this time.

That optimism only grew after safety Kim Herring intercepted Brunell on the next drive, setting up a 44-yard field goal by Matt Stover to increase the lead. The Jaguars answered with a 48-yard field goal as Baltimore still held a 32-29 advantage with time dwindling.

Having forced two turnovers leading to 10 points in the fourth quarter, the Ravens defense had regrouped from that ugly first half and now had its opportunity to cement that elusive first win against Jacksonville. However, Brunell and Smith still had 2:42 left to torment Baltimore one last time.

After picking up a first down to move into Ravens territory and now facing a third-and-6 from the 40 with 1:55 to go, Brunell faced a heavy blitz and heaved one deep toward wide receiver Keenan McCardell. What happened next seemed to be the cruelest trick yet in the Ravens-Jaguars history as the ball deflected off McCardell’s hands and right to Smith, who broke a Duane Starks tackle and jogged into the end zone for the go-ahead score. It was Smith’s third touchdown catch of the day as he finished with a whopping 15 catches and 291 yards, the most by an opponent in Ravens history.

Here we go again.

Despite erasing a 16-point halftime deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter, the Ravens were trailing 36-32 with 1:45 to play and back in a familiar position with the Jaguars on the verge of improving to 9-0 against them. Only a few fans moved toward the exits while the remainder sat quietly, lamenting how this had happened again.

But the Ravens finally changed the script as Banks completed a pair of throws to little-used receiver and special-teams veteran Billy Davis — who made only one other catch all season — to move the Ravens into Jacksonville territory. A 12-yard completion to Ayanbadejo moved Baltimore to the 29-yard line before Banks spiked the ball to stop the clock with 48 seconds left.

To this point, the start of former Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe’s tenure with the Ravens had been quiet as he didn’t register a catch in the season opener and had only two receptions for 21 yards in the ongoing shootout. Newsome had not only been looking for more production at tight end with the high-profile signing that February, but he valued Sharpe’s pedigree as a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time Super Bowl champion for a franchise that was still learning how to win.

The time was perfect for a lesson.

Sharpe took off right down the seam at the snap and caught a 29-yard rope for the touchdown. The 32-year-old tight end danced and smiled in the end zone while Banks lifted his arms in celebration upon throwing his fifth touchdown of the game, a new team record.

The catch brought a roar louder than anything experienced in the brief history of the 69,000-seat stadium opposite Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Thousands of voices were lost, ears rang, and the upper deck swayed as Stover kicked the extra point to give the Ravens a 39-36 lead with 41 seconds left.

Goosebumps.

There would be no miracle answer from Jacksonville this time as safety Corey Harris intercepted Brunell on the last play of the game. Chants of “Let’s go, Ravens!” bounced down the ramps as departing fans celebrated.

Novelty and nostalgia had been replaced by an arrival.

It didn’t matter that it was only a Week 2 victory. Banks would lose his starting job to Trent Dilfer six weeks later and the Ravens would go five straight games without scoring a touchdown in the middle of that 2000 championship season, but that wasn’t the point. From that exhilarating moment, they were no longer the old Browns or even the new Colts. The Ravens were a viable NFL franchise and here to stay.

The last-minute win over Jacksonville had changed everything.

“It says we’re headed in the right direction,” said defensive end Michael McCrary, who had joined the Ravens in 1997. “It said that the offense had the confidence and composure to go down the field and score. It was a huge turnaround from our teams of the past.

“We’ve never beaten them, and we needed to know as a team where we stood.”

Now two decades later, the Ravens own two Super Bowl championships, have multiple Hall of Famers, and are among the NFL’s model franchises.

But that was the moment that started it all.

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 3: Dilfer’s redemption

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 4 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The Tennessee Titans were the defending AFC champions and the NFL’s best team while the Ravens were still trying to regroup entering Week 11 of the 2000 season.

The good vibes and playoff aspirations accompanying a 5-1 start had dimmed with a three-game losing streak and an unthinkable five-game stretch in which the Ravens failed to score a single touchdown. Baltimore had finally snapped that futility with a 27-7 win at Cincinnati the previous week, but beating the lowly Bengals wasn’t convincing anyone that Brian Billick’s team was truly back on track.

Just three weeks earlier, the Ravens had suffered a home loss to the 8-1 Titans, a game in which starting quarterback Tony Banks was benched in favor of Trent Dilfer. The sixth overall pick of the 1994 draft and former Tampa Bay quarterback had thrown three touchdowns in the win over the Bengals in his second start, but going to Adelphia Coliseum — a place where Tennessee hadn’t lost since its opening the previous year — was a much different test for someone with a reputation for making the critical mistake at the worst time.

The clash between the AFC Central rivals and best defenses in the league started perfectly for Baltimore as Dilfer’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Qadry Ismail and a Jamal Lewis 2-yard touchdown run made it 14-0, but Titans quarterback Steve McNair threw two touchdowns in the second quarter as the Ravens held a narrow 17-14 lead at halftime. That score held until the fourth quarter when Titans kicker Al Del Greco tied the game with a 23-yard field goal with a little over eight minutes to play.

After punting on the ensuing possession, the Ravens got the ball back deep in Tennessee territory when Peter Boulware stripped a scrambling McNair on third down and Rob Burnett recovered the fumble at the 22-yard line with 4:07 remaining. Considering the way the Baltimore defense had played in the second half, even a field goal would be a perfectly fine outcome if Dilfer and the offense could trim time off the clock.

But on third-and-7, disaster struck as Dilfer’s pass intended for speedy wide receiver Patrick Johnson was intercepted by Titans safety Perry Phenix and returned 87 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:30 to go. It was the kind of play that had too often doomed Dilfer in Tampa Bay and seemingly sunk the Ravens in a game they desperately wanted to win.

However, Del Greco’s first missed extra point in seven years offered a sliver of hope if Dilfer could regroup against a defense that had blanked Baltimore since the second quarter. The 28-year-old now had the chance to rewrite his story or to leave Billick further pondering his quarterback problems with Thanksgiving right around the corner.

The two-minute drive was far from pretty as the Ravens committed two penalties and faced a third-and-5 from their own 35 when a scrambling Dilfer found veteran tight end Shannon Sharpe downfield for a critical 36-yard completion. Nothing came easy on the next set of downs either as Dilfer threw deep and incomplete to Ismail on fourth-and-2.

But a penalty flag came as Tennessee cornerback Dainon Sidney collided with Ismail just short of the goal line for pass interference. The Ravens had a first down from the 2 with 49 seconds remaining.

After Lewis was stuffed for no gain on first down and the ball was spiked to stop the clock to set up a third-and-goal from the 2, Dilfer rolled to his right and fired a strike to Johnson, who kept his feet inbounds for the touchdown with 25 seconds to go.

Not only was Johnson the man Dilfer had targeted on his abysmal interception minutes earlier, but the former second-round pick who’d never lived up to expectations dropped a potential touchdown earlier that day. The extra point by Matt Stover gave the Ravens a 24-23 lead as Dilfer had answered the call.

“For me, poise is just trusting the people around me,” Dilfer said after the game. “I’ve lacked poise in my career because I didn’t trust what’s going on around me. I told these guys I’ve worked my whole career to play with a bunch of guys like this.”

The redemption story wasn’t quite complete, however, as McNair completed an 11-yard pass and then furiously broke free for a 20-yard scramble to move the Titans to the Baltimore 25 with only three seconds to go. Regarded as one of the league’s most reliable kickers for years, Del Greco would have his own chance at redemption with a 43-yard try to win it for Tennessee.

The kick faded wide right as Dilfer fell facedown in relief and Billick raised his arms in victory on the sideline. A game the Ravens had seemingly won, lost, won, and lost again ended in a critical 24-23 victory.

Dilfer wouldn’t be asked to be much more than a game manager for the rest of the season as a historic defense and strong running game led the way, but that touchdown drive spawned confidence that Baltimore could win with him under center. The win showed the Ravens could beat anybody anywhere and were legitimate Super Bowl contenders despite their troubling midseason swoon.

No one knew exactly what would unfold in the coming weeks and months, but anything seemed possible after that last-second win over the mighty Titans.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to come back here for the playoffs,” right tackle Harry Swayne said after the game. “If that’s the case, it’d be like, ‘We’ve been here. Let’s do it again.'”

The words proved prophetic two months later as another hard-fought win at Adelphia Coliseum in the divisional round — complete with more Del Greco woes — proved to be the defining stop on the Ravens’ path to their first Super Bowl.

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Introducing the top 25 regular-season moments in Ravens history

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Luke Jones

1. Beating Jacksonville
2. “We know what kind of quarterback we have”
3. Dilfer’s redemption
4. Ruining homecoming
5. “Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle”
6. “Would it be us if we didn’t end it that way?”
7. “Something that you dream of”
8. “I guess the dude is Nostradamus”
9. “He seems to always be around it”
10. “Not bad for a running back”
11. Saluting Heinz Field
12. “Almost as if he knew what was coming”
13. The Kick-6
14. Five touchdowns in 125 seconds
15. “I didn’t want to hurt my team”
16. “That’s one that loosens your teeth”
17. “Our backs were against the wall”
18. 2,000 and then some
19. “You want to be the last team standing”
20. “Hell yeah, coach, let’s go for it!”
21. Scott blows up Roethlisberger
22. Win or “get run out of town”
23. “I got this”
24. New hope
25. The first touchdown

There has been no shortage of great moments over the Ravens’ quarter-century in Baltimore.

Two Super Bowl championships.

The Mile High Miracle.

Ray Lewis wrestling the ball away from Eddie George.

Shannon Sharpe’s 96-yard catch and gallop to silence the “Black Hole” in Oakland.

The 83-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice to kick off a wild-card round demolition of New England.

But you need no reminder of the unforgettable postseason moments that are a fan’s dessert after the meat and potatoes of the regular season. Right now, we yearn for those daily and weekly servings of escape that sports provide, which is why I’ve elected to dive deeper with the top 25 regular-season moments in Ravens history as the organization prepares to kick off its 25th season in Baltimore this fall.

By no means am I the definitive voice on the topic, but as a 13-year-old starved for football when the Ravens arrived in 1996, a young adult who bought season tickets right out of college, and eventually a beat reporter lucky enough to cover his hometown team, I’ve had a pretty good seat from different perspectives. In the end, my list will very likely differ from yours, which is what makes this fun.

My top 25 regular-season moments come solely from game action, so we’re not considering extracurricular activities such as Ravens Ring of Honor inductions, pre-game tributes, or Lewis’ unforgettable dance that whipped M&T Bank Stadium into a frenzy.

Of course, the term “moment” requires some wiggle room as some choices would be better described as a sequence of events or moments combining to produce a memorable outcome, an impressive accomplishment, or raw emotion. Context definitely matters as I attempt to weigh the historical significance against the real-time reaction each moment garnered. That’s why you’re likely to see a greater number of moments from the more accomplished teams in Ravens history.

To offer an idea of how lofty the standard was to make the cut — or to anger you right off the bat — before we begin revealing one moment at a time, I took a look at some honorable mentions below:

Lamar Jackson’s Cincinnati spin (2019)

If we were to make a list of the greatest individual plays in franchise history, this sensational 47-yard touchdown run would be an easy choice, but the Ravens already led by three scores at the time and Jackson was on his way to a perfect 158.3 passer rating that day, his second in what would be an MVP season. I’d also bet that we’ll see an even more spectacular play from Jackson in a more crucial moment in the future. Make no mistake, the 23-year-old will still make a couple appearances on the list.

Jermaine Lewis excels through grief (2000)

Less than two weeks after the stillborn delivery of his son, the two-time Pro Bowl selection had punt returns of 54 and 89 yards for touchdowns as the Ravens bested the playoff-hopeful New York Jets in a 34-20 final to close the 2000 regular season. The sight of Lewis pointing to the heavens after each score was special, but the University of Maryland product would top that a month later with an 84-yard kick return for a touchdown that removed any lingering doubt that the Ravens would win Super Bowl XXXV.

Ending the touchdown drought (2000)

As time goes on, the idea that the Ravens won the Super Bowl in a season in which they went five straight games without scoring a touchdown feels more preposterous, especially considering they managed to win twice over that stretch. Still, the Ravens were in the midst of a three-game losing streak when Trent Dilfer connected with Brandon Stokley for a 14-yard touchdown at Cincinnati, a play that elicited a loud exhale in Baltimore and began an 11-game winning streak ending in championship glory.

Qadry Ismail goes off in Pittsburgh (1999)

The Ravens had never won at Three Rivers Stadium and certainly weren’t an offensive juggernaut in head coach Brian Billick’s first year as Tony Banks, Baltimore’s third starting quarterback of the season, completed just eight of his 26 passes on the day. However, Ismail, a journeyman in the midst of a career year, hauled in five of those for a franchise-record 258 yards and three touchdowns of 54 or more yards in a 31-24 win. No other Raven has even cracked the 200-yard receiving mark in a game.

Priest who? (1998)

Many recall one-hit wonder Jay Graham and his 154-yard rushing day a year earlier, but Priest Holmes was making his first career start and had only seven career carries as the Ravens played their first ever prime-time home game and were without star linebacker Ray Lewis. Holmes, a 1997 undrafted free agent, wowed everyone with a 173-yard, two-touchdown night in a 31-24 win over the Bengals. Holmes would go on to be the 2001 rushing champion and a three-time Pro Bowl back with Kansas City.

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Chapter 17: The Last Ride of 52

Posted on 02 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

Your lowest moment is always when you feel your greatest pain. When I tore my triceps, and the doctor looked at me and she told me that, you know, I was out for the year. And I said, ‘Doc, are you sure?’ I said, ‘Nah. Doc – there’s no way I’m [going] to be out for the year with just a torn triceps. I’ve been through way worse.’ And she was like, ‘Ray, you know, nobody’s ever come back from this.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, nobody’s ever been Ray Lewis, either.’ ”

– Ray Lewis (January 2013)

 

 

 

AFTER ALL THAT THE RAVENS had been through in their rocky December – three losses in a row, the firing of Cam Cameron, the preseason-style game in Cincinnati to end 2012 – the road to a Super Bowl was still very much alive in January. And there’s nothing to stir the passions of Baltimore football fans like seeing the stolen blue horseshoe and the five-letter word that’s associated with evil in the land of pleasant living: I-R-S-A-Y. The Indianapolis Colts were coming to Baltimore again, a visit that still elicits plenty of emotion from the over-40 crowd.

And this time it wasn’t the bravado and no huddle mastery of Peyton Manning that would confront the Ravens. Peyton was staying warm in Denver, waiting to see if the Ravens would be journeying to the Mile High City next week. This time, the Colts had a different hotshot quarterback in Andrew Luck. The Ravens could never solve Manning – and still couldn’t earlier in December – but this time it would be a different look and a different team coming from Indy. In 2011, a gimpy version of the Colts on the last legs of the Dungy era and the Jim Caldwell head coaching run, were shellacked 24-10 by the Ravens in Baltimore as quarterback Dan Orlovsky ran for his life amidst a purple swarm all afternoon. Orlovsky wouldn’t be running the show this time.

This time, Caldwell would be running the Ravens offense and the guy who was running the Baltimore defense in 2001 would be the head coach of the Colts. There were plenty of emotions with the return of Chuck Pagano to Baltimore and the quarterback prodigy of John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, who groomed Luck at Stanford as head coach of the Cardinal, before Indianapolis and owner Jim Irsay made him the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in April 2012 after jettisoning Manning, who wound up in Denver.

Pagano had successfully battled leukemia over the previous three months, and the #Chuckstrong campaign in social media was as solid as the Colts had been on the field in his absence. During his absence, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians stabilized a youthful team around Luck. Indianapolis was the surprise team in the AFC with an 11-5 record, including 9-2 down the stretch. They had played a last-place schedule all year, but had been impressive throughout the year and brought a wave of emotion with them from the friendly heart of the Midwest as Pagano’s health and strength was a rallying point for them all season.

Pagano had believed it a cruel, strange twist of fate that he even got the Colts head coaching job the previous January. As the Ravens went down the field on the final Lee Evans-Billy Cundiff drive in Foxborough, Pagano was thinking that he was finally going to the Super Bowl.

“If we win that AFC Championship Game that would’ve put me two weeks further out and no coach can have any discussion about a job,” Pagano said. “I would venture to say that Indy would’ve had to get their guy in place and they had already interviewed with a bunch of guys. I don’t think that it would’ve happened for me with the Colts. I know there were more qualified candidates than me, guys they had talked to in the process.”

Instead, the Ravens suffered the agonizing defeat and Pagano got the Indy job the next day. “It’s crazy how fate and destiny works,” he said. “I thought I’d be going to Indy that week. I just had no idea it’d be to be coaching the Colts. I thought I’d be coaching the Ravens defense in the Super Bowl.”

Now, a cancer survivor in remission with thin strands of gray hair returning to his previously bald head, Pagano was back in Baltimore on the sidelines as the head coach of an NFL playoff team almost 12 months later. He was coming back to Baltimore in an attempt to end

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Former Raven Sharpe out on CBS pregame show

Posted on 18 February 2014 by WNST Staff

TONY GONZALEZ JOINS CBS SPORTS AS NFL ANALYST

Gonzalez to Provide Analysis Across Multiple CBS Sports Platforms Including

THE NFL TODAY, INSIDE THE NFL and THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW

Former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez joins CBS Sports as an analyst for the CBS Television Network’s NFL pre-game show, THE NFL TODAY, and will contribute across multiple CBS platforms including INSIDE THE NFL on SHOWTIME and CBS Sports Network’s Sunday pre-game show, THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW (TOPS). The announcement was made today by Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports.

“Having just stepped off the playing field, Tony brings a fresh and insightful perspective,” said McManus. “As a future Hall of Famer, we are excited for him to share his knowledge, experiences and opinions with our viewers. Tony was one of the most respected and hardworking players in the NFL and a tremendous teammate. We look forward to him bringing these attributes to CBS Sports.”

Tony will join James Brown, Bill Cowher and Boomer Esiason on THE NFL TODAY.

“While we welcome Tony, we want to acknowledge Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe who have contributed greatly to the success of THE NFL TODAY for more than a decade,” added McManus. “Dan and Shannon are true Hall of Famers on the field and in front of the camera. As they pursue other professional opportunities, we thank them for their hard work and dedication and wish them nothing but the best.”

Gonzalez’s NFL career spanned 17 years, 12 with Kansas City after being their first-round pick in 1997, and five with Atlanta before his retirement in 2013. He is the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdowns (111) and yards (15,127) by a tight end. He also is the NFL’s all-time leader in consecutive starts (120) and Pro-Bowl appearances (14) by a tight end, and ranks second overall among all players in catches with 1,325.  Known for his strength and durability, Gonzalez missed only two games during his 17-year career.

Gonzalez attended University of California, where he played football and basketball and majored in Communications.  During his junior season he recorded 46 receptions for 699 yards and five touchdowns, earning him first-team All-Pac 10 and first-team All-America honors.  That year he also helped lead the California basketball team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, averaging 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Gonzalez started his television career as host of the local television show, “Chiefs Locker Room,” and went on to appear on numerous national programs.  He also is an author, writing two books, and entrepreneur, developing multi-media programs that celebrate and advocate sports for children in an educational format.

Gonzalez’s philanthropic endeavors include a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs, along with Shadow Buddies, an organization that provides emotional support through education regarding illness, disability or medical treatments. He is very active in health, wellness and fitness space. Tony is an investor and trainer in the fitness app FITSTAR and is on the board for Fusionetics which utilizes a state of the art, evidence-based sports science process to optimize human performance.

The Sporting News named Gonzalez the #1 NFL Good Guy in 2004.  Additionally, he won a Presidential Volunteer Award for his work on the “Books and Buddies” project, which sought to promote understanding between teenagers and seniors.

Tony and his wife, October, reside in his hometown of Huntington Beach, Calif. with their children.

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Sharpe on Kubiak: “Flacco’s completion percentage will go up, interceptions down”

Posted on 31 January 2014 by WNST Audio

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