Sharper’s high school faces decision on ‘tarnished’ hero
April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
An autographed photo of Darren Sharper wearing his former Green Bay Packers uniform sits next to an autographed mini Packers helmet in the trophy case at Hermitage High School.
Down the hall by the gym, Sharper’s name appears on the sacred “Wall of Fame” between his older brother Jamie, a linebacker who went on to play for Virginia and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, and Shawn Barber, a classmate who went to the University of Richmond and played linebacker for four NFL teams.
But school officials have been considering removing anything associated with Darren Sharper, a consequence of the 38-year-old being under investigation for alleged date rapes of nine women across five states: two in California, two in Arizona, two in Louisiana, two in Nevada and one in Florida. He’s suspected of offering the women drug-laced drinks and raping them while they were unconscious.
So far he has been charged in Tempe, Ariz., where a grand jury indicted him, and Los Angeles.
The high school decided last month to hold off removing any items until Sharper’s case proceeds. His lawyers will appear in court in Arizona on Wednesday to argue that Sharper, who has been in jail in California since Feb. 27, should have the opportunity to post bail on the Tempe charges.
Chris Rollison, Hermitage’s director of student activities, said the high school’s Hall of Fame committee will make the final decision about the Sharper display. Darrell Jenkins, Sharper’s high school basketball coach, said he understands what the school will have to do “if this thing moves in a direction that’s not favorable.”
No one who knew Sharper as a youngster could have dreamed a future like this.
“They need to recognize he came from a tremendous background and had one of the best support systems in place with his father and mother,” Jenkins said.
Next to Sharper’s senior yearbook photo from 1993 is a list of accolades: varsity football and basketball, honor roll, student council and foreign language club. He was also a “Hermitage Scholar” and had perfect attendance in ninth, 11th and 12th grades. He went on to the prestigious College of William & Mary.
His father’s philosophy was quite simple,” Jenkins said. “‘You’re going to have to fall back on that education someday when athletics is not available to you.'”
Gus Allen, who was Sharper’s football coach at Hermitage High, cannot make sense of the charges against a man he has known for decades.
“It baffles me totally,” Allen told USA TODAY Sports. “He was just a normal kid. I saw none of that in him as a student growing up.”
Sharper played 14 seasons in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl five times and winning a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2010. Among the mementoes Allen keeps in his home are framed photographs of Sharper in uniform at Hermitage High, with the Packers and with the Minnesota Vikings, plus a letter from Sharper’s parents.
Allen’s wife, Jeri, reads the letter out loud:
“Coach Allen, Darren wanted me to mail these pictures to you. Hope all is well. Darren and Jamie often talk about you and your son. Good ol’ Hermitage days. – Harry and Pauline.”
Those who spoke with USA TODAY Sports agreed to do so because they wanted people to hear about the good times in Sharper’s life before he was arrested in Los Angeles in January.
The Allens are upset by what’s happening but will keep the frame on their wall.
“I don’t plan to take it down because that’s not the Darren we knew,” Jeri said.
Leader in school
This isn’t the Sharper anyone from his hometown in the Richmond suburbs knew, either.
“I’m telling you, there is no way you could have seen it coming because there is not a better family that I have ever been involved with in my 30-plus years of education as far as the support and holding of accountability,” Jenkins said. “These boys didn’t run wild. These boys didn’t go off and do their own thing. Were they perfect? They were teenage kids.
“But when (the allegations) first broke, I was just completely shocked. At first you want to say it can’t be true.”
Sharper’s father, who had a brief NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, was an administrator in the Henrico County school system for many years before retiring. His mother and sister, Monica, run the Richmond branch of Acti-Kare, an in-home service for senior citizens.
They currently live in a two-story home in a comfortable neighborhood in Glenn Allen, Va., a friendly and quiet area where kids walk safely to and from school, and police officers wave at passing cars.
Nobody answered the door when USA TODAY Sports sought comment.
Some of Sharper’s old friends haven’t seen him in quite some time. Jenkins said it’s probably been eight or 10 years. The Allens haven’t seen him since attending a Packers-Carolina Panthers game in Charlotte early in Sharper’s NFL career.
But Rollison saw him at the school in February, when Sharper came to watch a family friend play in a junior varsity basketball game. He was arraigned later that month.
“He always had a smile on his face and was just a good kid,” said Joe Coulter, who was Jenkins’ assistant coach and is currently a health and physical education teacher at Hermitage.
“He was a leader in football, basketball, school. People looked up to him. Definitely one of the most popular kids in school. Everybody knew him. He was also a jokester. The one who made everybody laugh.”
‘Sad and tragic’
Jenkins recalled that when Darren and Jamie Sharper were in college, they would come back to the school during Christmas break to work out and scrimmage with the team.
“That just says a lot about the kids because they could be off doing all kinds of things,” Jenkins said. “But that was important for them to be around, and those young kids looked up to those boys while they were in high school.”
The Sharpers, once they were in the NFL, also hosted a youth football camp for elementary and middle school kids. Barber helped out, too. A photo of that trio from camp may also be removed from Hermitage’s trophy case.
“It’s sad and tragic. … We’re talking about kids that are role models, kids people look up to,” Jenkins said. “I’m not going to cast stones, but the man is tarnished now, no matter what happens. That hurts.”