Enrique Ortega
ASU Student Journalist

The making of a modern athlete: Daylen Sharper's story

November 13, 2023 by Enrique Ortega, Arizona State University

Daylen Sharper runs down the field after making a catch against Desert Vista on Oct. 13. (Grace Hand photo/AZPreps365)

Enrique Ortega is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Central High School for AZPreps365.com

Right before the end of the first half, Brophy College Preparatory trailed Salpointe, 12-0,  in what was a crucial varsity football game to determine the No. 1 seed for the Arizona 6A playoffs.

The Broncos were in the Lancers’ red zone with the clock ticking down once Brophy quarterback Charlie McGinnis received the snap. The senior looked up and saw his 6-foot-2  wide receiver in the end zone, threw the ball, and sophomore Daylen Shaper made a difficult catch for the touchdown. 

The crowd jumped out of their seats and the student section went wild. Even former Arizona Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald, who was seated at the end zone, sprung out of his folding chair. 

The Broncos ended the night with a 14-12 victory over Salpointe thanks to Sharper's catch, which kick-started their win. 

So far this season, Sharper has 27 receptions with 405 receiving yards, averaging 15 yards per reception. He also has three touchdowns.   

Sharper did not begin his football career until he was in the eighth grade. What’s even crazier is that a year later, during his freshman year at Brophy, he received his first college offer from a Power Five school. 

“Coach (Jason) Jewell called me down,” Sharper said. “It was me and Bastian Vanden Bosch. He called me in his office. We were just talking about life and how everything was going and he told me that Oregon had offered me. I was super surprised. Me and Bastian had dapped up. 

“I called my mom right after and she cried on the phone. She said she loves me and is super proud of me. It was a good moment.”

Since then, Sharper has received offers from Arizona State, Boston College, Wisconsin, Colorado State and UNLV for football. He was also named the No. 7 wide receiver in the state by the Arizona Republic in June. 


Shaper and his mom, Patricia Hall , on the sidelines of a University of Minnesota football game (Photo courtesy of Patricia Hall)

Sharper is also a basketball player and was on the varsity basketball team as a freshman. Over the summer he picked up another Power Five offer from the University of Minnesota.  

“Summer basketball was getting started and it was apparent early on that he was going to be somebody who would be competing at the varsity level and could help us win games at the varsity level as a freshman,” Brophy basketball coach Matt Hooten said.

“In my 17 years here, I think I can probably count the number of guys that we could say that about on one hand,” Hooten said. “That number is probably three or four over close to 20 years. That speaks to his abilities and how gifted he is as a young man.” 

As a freshman, Sharper averaged 8.8 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game. 

Sharper has had the help of former University of St. Thomas basketball player Patricia Hall, who happens to be his mom.

“Not only did I play college basketball, I coached high school varsity basketball,” Hall said. “I was always involved in the game. And so when I had Daylen, I would bring him around and bring him to all these games and he couldn't catch a ball. Two years old, couldn't catch, three years old, couldn't catch. It was like, ‘How did you produce a kid like that? He's not going to be an athlete.’” 


Sharper and his mom, Patricia Hall, holding up the 4th grade basketball trophy that they won. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Hall)

Hall put her son in a basketball league when he was in kindergarten and coached him until he was in sixth grade when they moved to Oregon. 

“It was in about the second grade when we knew he was different,” Hall said. 

Hall and Sharper lived in Minnesota during this time and Hall had an office in the Target Center where the Minnesota Timberwolves play. 

“Every day I would walk downtown and get him from school and walk him back and I would continue to work and he would practice on the court,” Hall said. “Watch pros come in or other adults come in and play. So he got to see the game differently than a lot of kids.”

Hall is not the only athlete Sharper has for a parent. His father, Darren Sharper, was an NFL safety for 13 years. However, Sharper was given a 20-year prison sentence in 2016. 

“It’s been difficult,” Hall said. “Things happened that we never expected to happen. You went from Daylen looking at his father as a superhero, who won a Super Bowl, to not understanding why he's not around and what happened.”

“Where it has been hard for him is at times there are things that happen that are out of his control, such as a few weeks ago the AIA broadcasted a game and one of their announcers didn't realize that their mic was hot and they were talking about his father,” Hall said. “That was publicly broadcasted. Or when Daylen's had kids who maybe are jealous of him, who then say negative things about his father. So where it has impacted him the most is just those kinds of embarrassing moments. 

“But Daylen’s a resilient kid,” Hall said. “He's so much more than just a resilient athlete. I think some of the things that happened in Daylen’s life at an early age made him the good person that he is.”

Hall grew up in Minnesota and had a childhood friend named Larry Fitzgerald. When Hall and Sharper moved to Phoenix, Hall was in constant contact with the Cardinals legend as he helped them settle in and recommended, before they moved, to apply to Brophy.

“I trusted Larry when it came to academics, as we both were private school kids,” Hall said.  "And so I applied for Brophy, and I think we had seven days to apply because the application was closing and Daylen was fortunate enough to get accepted”

“Day one we moved here,” Hall said, “Larry called us. ‘Hey, have you guys moved yet?’ ‘Yeah, we got in today.’ He's like, ‘Great come meet us on the field.’ And so right away, Daylen had his Phoenix family.”

Sharper met Fitzgerald for the first time when they moved to Phoenix. 

“Daylen also kind of has that thought process when it comes to Larry,” Hall said. “He's in awe of him, but he also looks at him as a father figure.” 

Fitzgerald has been taking Sharper, his son Devin, and a few of their other friends to universities such as Notre Dame and Stanford for football games but to also explore the campuses for their education in the future.

“I talk to my kids all the time about using sports as a stepping-stone to bigger things in life,” Fitzgerald said. “I want him to think about going to a university where you can play high-level sports, but also be around the smartest, brightest minds you can be because sports can be over in a second.

“Intelligence is something that nobody can ever take from you,” Fitzgerald said. “And so I stress that to my son and Daylen, the expectations for you guys to be well-rounded young men, not to be great athletes, but to be able to be good students, great citizens in society.

“I try to take them to different events and meet guys like Steph Curry and LeBron James and people that can speak positivity into their lives and show them that anything is possible,” Fitzgerald said.

Hall has been strict on Sharper for two things: academics and extracurriculars. Sharper is enrolled in a few honors classes on top of his already busy schedule with athletics.

“He demonstrates a high level of respect,” Dean of Students Dr. Brian Johnson said. “He's very well put together. He's not somebody that’s running late to class. He's not somebody that flaunts his star abilities. He's very humble.”

“If he continues on this path, the sky's the limit for him, like really and truly,” Johnson said. “He's a natural athlete and he's gifted. And on top of that, he's a great student. He is actually a really great student.”

Sharper has been through a lot for his young age but despite it all, his mother, who has taken on the role of both parents, remains proud of her son.

“He is definitely the person who can take lemons and make lemonade,” Hall said. “He can always figure out how to be a bright light in other people's lives. Daylen is a great kid who's got a great future that may include sports. But even if they don't, he's doing what he needs to do to be an amazing human being.”