(Photo by Ron Schwane-Pool/Getty Images)
Donnie Shell waited 28 years to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame and he finally got his long-overdue recognition on Saturday night at the 2020 Centennial Class enshrinement ceremony.
“It’s been a long journey, but a good one,” Shell said. “I arrived in Pittsburgh in 1974, and now I’m in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only God can do that.”
Shell signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 1974 and is the fifth member from the Steelers' 1974 rookie class to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the 10th player from the '70s dynasty to be enshrined in Canton. Shell was a long shot to make it, but he relied on self-motivation and his faith to pave a 14-year career with the Steelers, which included five Pro Bowl nominations, three first-team All-Pro selections and four Super Bowl titles. Shell also recorded 51 interceptions in his career, which is the most ever for a strong safety.
Shell made sure to give Steelers "super scout" Bill Nunn, who is a member of the Class of 2021, a shoutout during his speech. As if it wasn't for Nunn and his HBCU connections, Shell probably wouldn't have signed with the Steelers.
"Praise God for HBCU coaches who are not only coaches but mentors and fathers to their players. Praise God for Bill Nunn, who advocated for HBCU players across the NFL and had the foresight to see the ability to switch me from linebacker to strong safety."
The Steelers organization was the perfect landing spot for Shell, not only because of Nunn but because Chuck Noll just played the best athletes and didn't care about pedigree.
“The one thing I liked about Chuck Noll is that he did not care about where you came from or what college you went to, but if you’re self-motivated,” Shell said.
Shell ended his speech with motivation for anybody that's looked down upon or overlooked.
“When that training camp ended, I was one of 13 rookies to make the team,” Shell said. “When the facts get in the way of your goal, you must go against the grain.
“Please do not let obstacles, trials, or unforeseen circumstances deter you from accomplishing your dreams and goals you set for yourself.”