Drew Sharp’s confidence comes from challenges of youth

Some experiences in life are beyond our control. Drew Sharp's childhood is proof.The Sharp brothers and neighborhood kids would always play basketball on the Sharps' driveway, not far from the university campus.

"Sharp Square Garden is what I called it," said the well-known Detroit Free Press columnist, who is one of three area journalists teaching a sports writing course this semester at UDM. "I use to write about them playing all the time."

Why wasn't Sharp playing with them? "I couldn't play," he said. "I wasn't allowed to play sports as kid."

Sharp had two open-heart surgeries before age 8. "I was limited to certain things I could do," he said. "But that wasn't going to stop me."

He didn't always dream of being a sports writer. "I wanted to be just like Walter Cronkite," he said. "I wanted to be a newscaster."

He wanted to be a writer so badly that his dad, Calvin, built him a news desk and bought him a typewriter for Christmas. He would then share his stories at the kitchen table.

"I'd always wanted to be a writer," he said. "It is my way of communicating."

Sharp went to Catholic Central High School and wrote for the student newspaper but said he "didn't take it seriously."

His career-changing moment came when as a sophomore he was hired to cover the Michigan football team for the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper.

"When I went to my first press conference for the football team, it was in a small room," he said. "I was looking for a place to sit and I see a chair at the end of the table and I sit down.

"The next thing I know, everyone is staring at me," he said. "I was wondering to myself why this is. But then I realized I was in Bo's seat."

(Bo Schembechler was head football coach at Michigan.)

"I thought I was doomed for sure," he said. "Sure en-ough, he comes and he says, 'You're in my seat, son.' I said, 'I'm so sorry' and he then pats me on the back and says, 'It's OK kid.' "

Sharp graduated from Michigan with a communications degree. He had found what he wanted to do: sports writing.

"I applied at three places only," he said. "The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and the Detroit Free Press."

Eventually he pestered a Free Press editor into giving him a chance.

He has been working at the Free Press since 1983 – his whole career – covering the championship Pistons in 1989 and 1990 and Michigan State sports for six years, before becoming a columnist in 1999.

Sharp believes that it is a columnist's job to keep the newspaper interesting.

"You have to be honest with your readers," he said. "If you don't write with a strong opinion about a topic and have readers love or hate you, then you didn't do your job."

Over the years, Sharp has covered many major sporting events, writing columns that often run counter to the general public's views. But that doesn't stop him from writing.

"Some people call it a 'know-it-all,' " he said. "I just have high confidence in myself."

He believes his confidence is the key to his long-time success.

"I was told as a kid that I couldn't do certain things, and that pissed me off," he said. "I made sure that I aimed high and kept my confidence.