It’s always good when you have Hall of Famers openly and actively advocating for you to join them. I’m not sure a senior candidate in recent memory has had more direct member support for his inclusion than had Pittsburgh Steelers safety Donnie Shell.
Of course, it helps that he already had ten teammates in the hall, when you include Tony Dungy, who made it as a coach. Dungy played with Shell in the secondary for a brief period of time. More extensive time was put in together between Shell and the great Mel Blount, the Hall of Fame cornerback who was ecstatic when he learned that his teammate would finally be joining him in the brotherhood of the gold jackets.
“I wanted to just scream”, he told the team’s website. “I am driving to North Carolina when I got the call, so I had to keep my calm. I think if I was in the house somewhere, I would have jumped up screaming and shouting. I am really excited for him”.
Shell joins, in addition to Blount and Dungy, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, and Jack Lambert from the defense, in addition to Terry Bradshaw, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster, and Franco Harris. Amazingly, Stallworth, Swann, and Webster were all from the same rookie class. Sadly, Webster is no longer here with us.
“I personally, along with John Stallworth and Tony Dungy, had been lobbying for at least three or four years to convince voters Donnie was well qualified and deserving of being in the Hall of Fame”, Blount pointed out. Dungy even campaigned for him during his own Canton acceptance speech a few years ago. “I am so happy he finally made it”.
There’s no getting around the fact that the Steelers of the 1970s were arguably the most remarkable football team in history, a feat that may never be duplicated, for multiple reasons. Even on a pure talent level, they rose above their peers, and now Shell finally gets to be recognized as being a part of that.
I think the reactions and responses from his teammates has been the most telling thing about this entire process, because it speaks to how well they understand not only how great the honor is, but how deserving it is as well, and how long he has had to wait.
But now the wait is over, and it’s the end of the line as well. There is nothing left in terms of his football life with respect to achievements. Now he simply gets to enjoy the recognition of being at the very top of his profession for the rest of his life. And that’s got to be a remarkable feeling.