The Pittsburgh Steelers received good news yesterday when it was announced the great Donnie Shell would be included in the 2020 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of 10 players chosen as part of the Centennial Slate for the class of 20 individuals in total. While the modern candidates have yet to be selected, he will be joined, at least, by former head coach Bill Cowher.
Shell, an undrafted free agent in 1974, gradually climbed his way up the ladder to starter before becoming one of the most impactful strong safeties in the history of the game, including 51 interceptions over the course of his career an 19 fumble recoveries for an astonishing 70 career takeaways.
While Shell has fully acknowledged that this late-career honor means a great deal to him, perhaps his favorite part of the process was the opportunity to hear from so many of his teammates, those who played with him, telling stories about him and what he meant to them and to the team as a whole, something he’ll treasure for the rest of his life.
“The thing I really enjoyed was hearing the comments and advocacy of my teammates”, he said yesterday, via the team’s website, after learning the news. “I will cherish that forever. That is awesome. I told my son keep everything from the websites, save it all for my grandkids. To see how they thought of me as a teammate. I knew some of that, but when they expressed that and it came out in articles, it almost brought tears to my eyes. That was awesome”.
I wonder if any of his grandkids read our site…while we haven’t interviewed any of his teammates, we certainly have had plenty of nice things to say about him and have advocated for his inclusion into the Hall of Fame for a number of years. As with the rest of the fans, we celebrated today upon hearing the announcement. As did those with whom he played.
“To just see how much my teammates cared about me and made comments of that nature. You don’t think of yourself in that vein because you are playing for the common goal”, he said. “However, we all have the ultimate goal and dream to be inducted into the Hall of Fame”.
There isn’t much that Shell did not accomplish. Just about the only thing would be failing to be drafted. He played. He started. He went to the Pro Bowl. He was first-team All-Pro. He won the Super bowl—on a number of occasions. And now, he is immortalized as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That is one hell of a career for a nobody out of South Carolina State University, though the school also produced Harry Carson and Deacon Jones.