Shannon Sharpe On The NFL’s Tight End Renaissance And Not Realizing The Katt Williams Interview Would Blow Up

Shannon Sharpe has become a very busy man.

After stepping away from Undisputed with Skip Bayless on FS1 last summer he’s expanded into his own mini-media empire. Sharpe does two days a week on ESPN’s First Take with Stephen A. Smith, along with his own shows, Nightcap with Chad Ochocinco and Gilbert Arenas, and his weekly podcast, Club Shay Shay. It was on that show that Sharpe blew up beyond just the world of sports talk when his three-hour conversation with Katt Williams became the lead story in the world of entertainment. Despite Katt’s comments making seemingly endless headlines, Shannon was so focused on trying to keep the show on the tracks that he didn’t have any idea how big it was going to be.

Last week, prior to the NFC and AFC title games, we got a chance to speak with Shannon over Zoom on behalf of OIKOS, as he stars in their Big Game commercial alongside Martin Lawrence. We talked about acting alongside a legend, his year venturing out on his own, how and why the response to the Katt Williams interview caught him by total surprise, and the NFL’s tight end renaissance that’s been on display this postseason.

The last time we talked was for a piece when you were at Fox in 2018, and I gotta ask — are you still doing six spin classes a day?

No, no spin. I’ve had both of my hips replaced. And so now it’s more of the assault bike and the row machine. So I try to get — I mean, I’ve been so busy — but I’m trying to get back into the swing of things where I get at least three to four cardio days a week along with my lifting.

I was gonna ask, man, do you ever get tired? Because I mean, you got a million things going on now.

No, because I think that’s what I was meant to do was work. I enjoy it. And you know, for me, you can’t ask God to give you something then say you gave me too much of it. So I asked for what kind of what’s going on in my life right now, and so for me, it’s just to maximize every opportunity. I have a good team around me. I’m good at delegating. I let them do what they’re really good at and if I need to jump in, I will. But for the most part, we’re a fine-oiled machine. Everybody has their job. Everybody has their responsibility. Everybody’s pulling because we are on the same team, even though we have different branches. I would say we’re like the government but sometimes I think the government even though they’re under the same umbrella as government, but you have the legislative, judicial, and executive and they’re all pulling in opposite directions. Everything that’s under Shay Shay Media is pulling in the same direction.

What have the last six-plus months been like for you getting to kind of focus on your own ventures a little more, not doing five days a week on TV — obviously, you do First Take Mondays and Tuesdays. But what has it been like getting to really kind of expand Club Shay Shay get to do the Nightcap with Ocho and just kind of explore different avenues for what you can do?

It’s been meteoric. Even in my wildest dreams, I knew what I was capable of doing if given the opportunity. But not this. I mean, even this has taken me and it’s hard for me to surprise myself because I understand how hard I work — and hard work doesn’t guarantee you anything. I just realized without it, you don’t have a chance. So I knew I was willing to put the work in because I was willing to put the work in on every job I’ve ever had. It didn’t matter if I was making five bucks a day or I was making $5 million a year. I’m gonna put the work in because I want the best version of Shannon to be on display at all time.

And so for me to be able to see all my hard work pay off and people appreciate what I’m doing, be it First Take, be it Nightcap, be it Club Shay Shay, it really means a lot to me that people appreciate and they know how hard I work. And they know that I’m trying to give them the best content with the best celebrities and athletes and entertainers that I possibly can on Club Shay Shay. Ocho and I and Gilbert [Arenas] with the basketball edition are trying to give them the best content we can with Nightcap. And, obviously, when I’m on First Take with Stephen A and those guys, I just try to do the best job I possibly can and it’s resonated with a lot of people. And it means a lot to me that the people at ESPN believed in me and gave me an opportunity. But I was going to do my own thing had that not come to fruition. But when Stephen A. reached out — and he’s been great. He’s been an unbelievable partner. Molly, she’s great. She’s a great sport, because she handles Stephen A. and I ribbing, she gives it right back to us. But it’s been great, but to say that — I thought that I thought within a year or a year say a year maybe two years. I could be where I am. I didn’t think the ascension was gonna be this quick.

Obviously, the one that got everyone talking was Katt. How quickly into him showing up on that couch did you know “Oh, this is going to be the one everybody’s talking about?”

I didn’t.


No, look. When he came he was ready, he was very talkative, and he was early. And so normally, I think the interview was scheduled at about 11, he got there like 10:45 I’m already mic’d up, I’ve already got made up, you know, he comes in, he greets me, tells me he’s very excited, he’s been wanting to come on. Because I’ve been trying to land Katt for about a year. So I think I reached out to him end of ’22 and I finally got him the end of ’23. So I’ve been trying to put this together for a year. Finally, he agreed to do it. And I just remember, now mind you what threw me off is that we started early. Cause normally we start late. They normally get there, we schedule it for 11, 12, 1 and they normally get there at the time that’s scheduled. By the time we get mic’d up, we need to get made up, touch-ups or anything like that, we do a little talking and we normally start about 15-20 minutes late.

But in this situation we started early so I kind of lost track of the time. And what also threw me off is that once I got through the intro of reading who my guest is and blah, blah, blah. I’m getting ready to ask him a question, and he says, “Let me tell you why I wanted to come on.” And I say well, tell me why you came on? And so we go 30 minutes and I never ask a question. So in that moment, I’ve got to make a split-second decision. Do I stop him? Get back on track — because, look, we let people have their voice, but we’re still a structured program. So I said I’m gonna let him go. And for the first 30 minutes I don’t ask a question. I’m just listening. And so when we finished — now, mind you, I still had 20 minutes of questions left that I didn’t even get to.

So I remember finishing and my producer’s in the back, CJ, and I look at him and he’s shaking his head. And I’m like, “What did he say something? Did I say something?” He said it’s gonna break the internet. And I’m like, I’m hoping for 10 or 15 million views. People don’t realize 10 or 15 million views is — I don’t care if it’s digital or it’s linear — 10 or 15 million views is a big-time conversation or interview, whatever you want to call it. So we released it that following week because I think we shot it on a Thursday. We released it the following Wednesday. There’s 120 to 130,000 people watching it in the chat. And I call my producer and I’m like man that’s 120-130,000 people. I said, “Yeah, we gonna probably get that 10-15.” So the first day we get about two, two and a half million. By the end of the second day, we’re like at 14 million.

So I remember calling him on the phone I was like “Bro, we already at 14 million, we gonna do probably like 20.” And he calmly says, it’s gonna do 50 million. I say WHAT?! 50 million. Now I know Joe Rogan is the only one that goes and that’s gotten 50 million views. He said even before we before we got it all cleaned up and everything, he says people are going to talk about this all of 2024. And people haven’t stopped talking about it. Saturday Night Live spoofed us which was a huge honor. I mean, everybody, I didn’t know so many people watch Club Shay Shay or even knew I had a podcast. But if I’m out, stores, it doesn’t matter if I’m in the airport, people are talking about that Katt Williams interview. I had no idea it was going to do this. I did not.

You’ve got this OIKOS spot with Martin Lawrence that you shot for Super Bowl — what was that experience like? I know you know Martin but like, what was that experience like getting out there with him and kind of seeing him in his element? Because obviously when you have guys on the podcast or talk on a show, it’s a little different, right?

Yes. Well, I want to thank OIKOS for giving me this opportunity. Because you do realize that a company of this magnitude, they have their choices of celebrities, entertainers, actors, actresses, ex-, and current athletes. For them to choose me and then to put me with Martin — and I watched the Martin show, I’ve gone to a couple of his stand-up shows. he’s an A-list movie star – so to get an opportunity for me to have a Big Game spot that’s going to air nationally and they pair me with an A-lister. And I’m like, wow. You know, look as an ex-professional athlete I’ve been around greatness and I understand what greatness is. And I look at it like greatness is greatness. If you’re a great actor it’s just like being a great football player. If you’re a great dancer, greatness is greatness. And to be around him, I got an opportunity to see how he gets himself in character and able to do his thing. I just wanted to make sure I knew my lines, that I hit my cues, I hit my marks. They allowed us to be like “Okay, how would you guys say it if there were no cameras around and you were headed to play golf and you drove this golf cart into the lake? What would you say? How would you say it?” And so they gave us freedom, because at the end of the day, it needs to sound like Martin and it needs to sound like Shannon in order for the best spot to be put forward. So it was it was an unbelievable honor and I’m extremely excited that OIKOS chose me for this national spot in the Big Game and the Hold My Oikos, and hopefully Martin had as much fun as I did.

I got one football question for you at the end. All four conference championship teams, the tight end position is very important to what they do. What have you seen as the evolution in that position and how teams use it and how it’s grown into this thing where it’s a real weapon? Especially with the way you can play tempo and keep defenses on the field and keep personnel on the field, but if you have that adaptable, tight end, it can be a real weapon to kind of leverage what the defense does against you?

Well, you know, the tight end position is the position that I played so I’m very familiar with this position. It’s the conversation that myself, Ozzie Newsome who ran the Ravens for a number of years, — Eric de Costa now slid into that role — and big Kellen Winslow Sr. I think the biggest thing is they use that position more now than what they did when those two guys played, even when I came up in the 90s and early 2000s. But there are more guys to do it. There are only probably like two or three guys. You mentioned all the guys. Even though [Isaiah] Likely, he’s not the starting tight end, he could start at the tight end position probably for 25 other teams. He just happens to be on a team with an All-Pro in Mark Andrews. And then you got George Kittle who’s the All-Pro this year. Then you got [Travis] Kelce. What else do I have to say about nephew, who I believe is the GOAT tight end and he’s still currently playing? He and Patrick Mahomes have the most touchdowns as a duo, they passed Gronk and Brady, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana. And then you got LaPorta with the Lions. Man, you have more guys to do what myself and Ozzie and Kellen could do. Now there’s 5, 6, 7 guys who can legitimately get you 1,000 yards in a season, lead your team in receiving, when I played there was one or two.