Shannon Sharpe, NFL Hall of Famer, Reveals 2016 Cancer Diagnosis

by Dustin Schutte

When doctors diagnosed former NFL superstar Shannon Sharpe with prostate cancer in 2016, he didn’t want anyone to know about it. He kept quiet about his medical situation at the time, but now has decided to share his story.

Sharpe, an inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, spoke with PEOPLE about that scary diagnosis back in 2016. He said he found out just before he was scheduled to move to Los Angeles to join the FS1 family.

“Once you hear that ‘C’ word come out of their mouth, okay, damn,” Sharpe said. “It was difficult … this was my dream job. … I didn’t want this opportunity to go away because I wanted to show that athletes could do more than talk about their best sports. I felt that there were a lot of people counting on me to be able to go fulfill this obligation that I had been given.”

Upon learning of the diagnosis, Sharpe said he didn’t want to tell anyone about his situation. In fact, the Denver Broncos legend said only four people knew for the longest time.

“My brother and sister and my girlfriend at the time,” Sharpe said. “I didn’t tell my mom, I didn’t tell my kids. I didn’t tell anybody.”

He added that he finally told those individuals about a year after being diagnosed.

Shannon Sharpe Wants to Fight the Stigma

After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Shannon Sharpe felt somewhat uncomfortable discussing the situation. Now, he wants to change the stigma surrounding those medical check-ups and diagnoses.

“What I want to do now is break down the stigma – do not be afraid to go to the doctor,” Sharpe told PEOPLE. “We need to give Black people more access to healthcare, and then once we get better access to healthcare, don’t be afraid to go use it.

“Do not be afraid to just ask questions of your doctor. Do not be afraid to get screened because it could save your life. Now they mentioned there’s a 96% survival rate if you get screened and it gets detected early. I’m a part of that 96%.”