Catching Up With…Mike Sharp
A 1982 graduate of Carroll County High School, Mike Sharp admits he is probably most famous for being the little brother of Pat Sharp, who most regard as the best basketball player in CCHS history.
And while Mike didn’t quite grow to be as tall as his bigger brother, he took his own path by becoming an outstanding football player and wrestler for the Cavaliers. Mike Sharp would go on to become a two-time first-team All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference selection as a defensive tackle for Hampden-Sydney College. During his senior season in 1985, Sharp was selected as an Academic All-American, the ODAC Student Athlete of the Year, and was awarded Hampden-Sydney’s Gammon Cup, the top athletic award given annually by the college. Character, scholarship and athletic ability are considered to be eligible for the award.
Sharp certainly made the most of his athletic and academic abilities, as he now serves as an ER Physician at Atmore Community Hospital and Medical Director of ACH MedPlus Urgent Care in Atmore, Alabama. This week, we catch up with Mike to talk about Cavalier football and wrestling, the Alabama Crimson Tide, and life living near the Gulf of Mexico.
What year did you graduate from Carroll County? 1982
When did you graduate from Hampden-Sydney? 1986
Family members: Ashley Sharp (Wife), Jeb Sharp (Son #1), Bobby Sharp (Son #2), Sam Sharp (Son #3), Hannah Boothe (Step-daughter), Joe R. Sharp (Father), Elizabeth W. Sharp (Mother), Patrick Sharp (Brother), Shannon Sharp-Rutig (Sister), Jeff Rutig (Brother-in-Law).
Current Occupation: ER Physician – Atmore Community Hospital & Medical Director – ACH MedPlus Urgent Care in Atmore, AL.
What is your favorite memory in athletics at Carroll County? Unfortunately nothing I did. I think the best memories were of basketball when Pat was playing. Every game was standing room only; if you didn’t have a seat by 5 o’clock, you didn’t get a seat; visiting fans would show up & not have a seat; we would have more fans present at away games than the home teams; everyone stood & cheered the whole game; all the District & Regional play-offs, 2 State appearances. It really was significant for the school & the community. We all loved it.
What is your favorite memory in athletics at Hampden Sydney? There were almost too many to mention. Surprise as a Sophomore (after my first season starting) being chose 2nd Team All-ODAC; chosen as Most Improved Player as a Sophomore; 2 ODAC Championships; #14 D-III ranking Junior year; chosen as team Captain as a Senior; chosen Most Valuable Defensive Player as a Senior; chosen 1st Team All-ODAC twice; chosen as the ODAC Student Athlete of the Year. But if I really had to narrow it down, I would get it down to 2 events as most memorable. #1 would be the first game of the season Junior year, we were playing Samford Univ. (Birmingham). The first play from scrimmage, I shot the gap & sacked the quarterback. When I got up from the ground & glanced at the sideline, there was Pat & Mike (Rip) Worrell going crazy. #2 would be the same year playing & beating Gettysburg College who was ranked 3# in D-III at the time – that was a rush. On a sadder side of memories, we lost our Head Coach J. Stokeley Fulton the summer before my Senior year. Outside of my parents he had more of an influence on my life than anyone else.
Which was tougher, earning 1st Team All-ODAC honors on the gridiron or earning Academic All-American honors? I would have to say academics – isn’t that the right answer? LOL. But I do feel this is true. The athletic part is just mostly reactions. Our brains are hard-wired for this. If something flies towards your face, you turn away – a reaction. After practicing play after play, you just learn to react to what is going on around you & you do what needs to be done. Academics are a lot tougher. Critical thinking requires learning new material & applying it to new situations in novel ways. Definitely more complicated than reactions. H-SC teaches you to think on your own & I for one had to work to accomplish this. I enjoyed sports without doubt & absolutely loved playing football, but I am proud of what I have accomplished off the field.
Do you make your friends call you Dr. Sharp? If not, don’t you think you should? I have never asked anyone to call me doctor. Sure people do it because they feel they’re supposed to do it or as a sign of respect, but I don’t ask it of anyone especially a friend. I introduce myself as Dr. Sharp at work so people will know that I am the doctor. I never do it outside of work. I’ve always said, “My parents didn’t name me doctor, they named me Mike.”
We understand you are a big Alabama fan. Will you be rooting for the Hokies or Crimson Tide on August 31? I am actually a big UVA fan – WAHOOWA. So I cannot, will not cheer for Tech even if Coach Beamer is from Carroll. I am a Paul “Bear” Bryant fan, so I do root for Bama but I didn’t really get upset when Texas A&M beat Bama last year since it was one of Coach Bryant’s former teams. Now my wife is born & bred Bama fan & will cheer for no one else. We have tickets & will be in Atlanta Aug 31 but I will be in crimson. Complicating things some is that Bobby will start school at Auburn this fall.
Speaking of ‘Bama, that Alabama-Auburn rivalry is pretty crazy. Have you ever had to treat anyone for injuries related to the rivalry? Possibly. I saw a guy who said he passed out during the game, fell backwards, & hit his head leading to a significant brain bleed. The odd thing was his lips were swollen & bruised so I really think someone punched him & knocked him backwards.
How big is the Alabama bandwagon right now? Oh it is big. All the talk is about the SEC & within that Alabama. Everyone loves a winner. I am a little tired of hearing three-peat. Being an outsider, I like to think I’m a little more objective. There are die-hard Bama fans & die-hard Auburn fans but I think there are some that switch back & forth. I couldn’t believe all the Auburn decals I saw 3 years ago after their championship but I haven’t seen near as many the last two years – they traded them in for Alabama decals. I am no fan of the BCS. I am all for a play-off but it has to be more than 4 teams – you remember Louisville spanking #3 Florida last year? I believe year to year the SEC is given more credit based on reputation by the pollsters.
Why did your wrestling teammates used to call you Fish? That is a complicated story. When I was a Freshman, there was a Senior on the team who wrestled a really good athlete from Radford & lost. The next time we wrestled Radford that same year, another teammate wrestled this guy. After the match, the Radford grappler came over & asked, “Where’s the fish I wrestled last time?” When asked what he meant – let’s just say it’s a pretty derogatory term for a poor wrestler (actually the Senior wasn’t that bad just that the Radford wrestler was that good). When the Senior graduated, I inherited the name. You couldn’t have a team without a “fish”. I didn’t fight it & the name stuck. Friends still call me that when I come home (not doctor – LOL).
If you could go back over 30-years ago, what would the physician in you say to Don Beane and the other coaches smoking cigarettes on the football field? In a related question, what does it say about Cavalier football teams from that era that the coaches smoked during practices and games? Simple – don’t do it. We said it back then. Our Dad smoked at one time & we were always on him to quit which he did. We’ve known for many, many years the problems with smoking but it was more accepted back then. I don’t think it says much about the teams. You play because you love the game. You don’t always get to choose for whom you play. It does set a bad example for the kids. I have always been a firm believer in leadership by example. Smoking is not the example of your leadership you want to promote. Unfortunately my college coach smoked too & lung cancer is what took him from us before my Senior year.
What were backyard ball games like between you and your brother Pat? In one word – ugly. We didn’t have any other kids close by to play with us & one on one football just doesn’t cut it. So we played a lot of basketball. He would spot me 15 points to get me to play & play to 21. I don’t ever remember winning a game.
Was it hard growing up in Pat’s extremely tall shadow? I didn’t look at it that way. He had his talents & I had mine. He seemed to have a lot more talent. I played basketball through 8th grade but I knew I could never be better than him. So that was when I switched to wrestling (it helped that Coach Gary Willis was at Woodlawn teaching & recruited all us youngsters to come up to the High School & wrestle). Wrestling was a niche where I could fit. He was famous, I wasn’t but he earned that distinction. I could use him for instant recognition though. “You know Pat Sharp? Yeah, I’m his little brother.”
What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on the football field? This is the hardest question. I can’t think of a lot – maybe you repress those memories. I mean I didn’t pick up a fumble & run the wrong way or have my pants fall down on the field. I do recall a pretty funny incident. When I first began playing football, it was in the old “sandlot football” league. I played for the Redskins under Jim Beck. On one defensive play, I tackled a pretty big kid taking a good helmet to helmet lick push the helmet down on the bridge of my nose. A large amount of fluid shot out of my nose. I jumped up & ran to the sideline holding my “bloody nose.” I told Coach Beck my nose was busted. He told me I couldn’t come off the field because we didn’t have anyone else to play. I went back on the field & finished out the last few plays. After the game, I relayed this to Dad. He checked my nose & no bleeding or even dried blood. He laughed & said, “Son, you just had the snot knocked out of you!”
Which sport did you enjoy more, football or wrestling? Football was my passion. I just love the game. Wrestling is a great sport though. It is really one on one – you against someone else – who’s the best? It has team & individual concepts. Even if your team isn’t great, you can excel as an individual. But it’s great when the team wins too. That’s one thing football doesn’t have. You can be a great athlete on a terrible team & never win a game - disappointing
Life must be pretty tough living near the Gulf of Mexico. How do you manage to make it through each day? Air conditioning. I tell you after almost 9 years I still have not gotten used to the heat. Honestly I don’t know how anyone lived in this area before air conditioning.
How much dedication and hard work does it take to succeed as a college athlete? You really have to discipline yourself. You really have a lot of free time in college. I probably averaged about 5 hours of class a day. That leaves plenty of empty time. You can use that however you want. I realized early that I didn’t have as much time due to practice or off season training. So the time left over I had to maximize as study time. I think playing a sport was actually better because I didn’t have the extra time everyone else had to goof off. For me a little goofing off leads to more goofing off, something I didn’t need to be doing. I think it may be different at higher levels, but in D-III you are always a student first. I was blessed that all our coaches realized that & stressed our education first.
What do you miss most about Carroll County? I miss Family, the mountains, cool summer nights, rapid moving cold streams, leaves changing in fall, North Carolina style BBQ, some snow.
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