I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect for my first trip to Hoover, Alabama for SEC Media Days, but the first thing that I noticed was the noise level and the hype. I should have known it would be loud and electric; this is, after all, SEC football. Media types from all over the country gathered in one facility to talk about the 2016 football season. As conversations continued, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of David Sharpe through the revolving door at the Wynfrey Hotel.
Finally I got a glimpse of his six-foot-seven-inch frame towering over the crowd as he made his way through the masses, signing autographs and shaking hands. The junior from Jacksonville, Florida was about to embark on a daylong journey filled with people asking about mistakes, improvements, and future expectations.
There he stood in the corner of the room, a gold chain wrapped around his neck outfitted in a designer Tommy Hilfiger suit. One would expect a big guy like Sharpe to speak somewhat confident and maybe even cocky; however, presented himself quite the opposite. The soft-spoken offensive lineman fielded questions for about 15 minutes with the national media and then the local media got a crack at him. Sharpe spoke in a determined, yet soft, voice. I held my recorder as close as I could without feeling intrusive and listened to a man that was clearly out of his comfort zone. He spoke on topics ranging from teammates hairstyles to his own personal nutrition. During the closing moments of the interview, Sharpe wiped the dripping sweat from his forehead with a towel. I was not sure if he was perspiring because he is a 340-pound man dressed in a suit in the Alabama summer heat, or if it was because he was addressing the media.
Though Sharpe is quiet, he relished the opportunity to join Florida Head Coach Jim McElwain and teammates Marcus Maye and Jarrad Davis in Hoover. His hard work in the offseason is paying off, and there have been many changes to the talented left-tackle’s game, ”I’ve learned a lot in this offseason,” Sharpe said, “Stance-wise, technique-wise and my strength went up a notch.”
Comfort and confidence is something that Sharpe says he has been working during the long offseason, and as the day progressed, his confidence behind the microphone did as well. When Sharpe made his way to the main room, he answered questions in a polished, charismatic fashion, a step above the shy demeanor that he began the day with. If I had never talked with the big guy before and just watched him play, I would never have guessed he would have been so quiet and soft-spoken. On the field, Sharpe throws pass rushers backwards and clears holes for running backs with ease; off the field, he has taken it upon himself to become more of a leader for the incoming freshman, he remarked, “Just being an anchor to all of those guys, because so many of them look up to me.”
About 35 minutes after the fiasco started, Sharpe was done with his first set of interviews. Unfortunately, there were more to come, but on the other end of the spectrum, Sharpe had made it through the hard part. Typically, in the first interview, you’ve heard almost every question you’re going to hear all day. Characteristically the room changes, but the questions remain the same.
While Sharpe made his rounds in Hoover, his tone didn’t waiver. He remained calm but determined; which is exactly the way he plans to be on the field this fall. When asked about his role as a Gator he said, “Being the guy that goes hard every rep,” Sharpe said, “Run down the field, follow the ball and being vocal.”
Nearing the end of his first ever SEC Media Days appearance Sharpe sat behind a table in the main conference room. Huddled around him were reporters sneaking in their last little bit of audio before Sharpe’s time was up. Sharpe’s day was over, but the 2016 season is just getting underway. After all the interviews were complete, Sharpe had a bit of a grin on his face and a look of relief. Behind that grin is a man who wants to prove all the words he spoke about today on the field this fall, more than words can possibly describe.