COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Wow.
That was the only word that came to mind when former Pittsburgh Steeler and South Carolina State standout Donnie Shell was informed that he was going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Shell, who played 14 years for the Steelers at safety, helped the franchise capture four Super Bowl titles during his playing days. The former All-Pro, who finished his career with 51 interceptions, went three decades without hearing from Canton and it created some doubt for him that he’d ever be enshrined.
“I did get a little down and discouraged,” Shell admitted, “which is normal when you’re waiting on something to happen and it doesn’t happen, but my faith kept me strong and I just hung in there and waited. Now, they have the Centennial Team going in and I was one of the ones that were selected. It’s good to wait sometimes. I’m a better person from having waited all those years.”
Shell, who was undrafted in 1974, will join the National Football League’s Centennial Class, which is comprised of Harold Carmichael, Jim Covert, Bill Cowher, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Jimmy Johnson, Alex Karras, Steve Sabol, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie, Ed Sprinkle, Paul Tagliabue, and George Young.
However, Shell will also join a host of previously inducted Pittsburgh Steelers, including a few of his own teammates who were thrilled to hear he was elected.
“I’m excited, but they’re more excited than me,” Shell laughed. “John Stallworth just texted me the other day. He said, ‘Have you come down from the high yet?’ He said, ‘I haven’t if you have. I’m still up there.’ They’re more excited than I am and I really appreciate their advocacy and helping me with my selection to the Hall of Fame. They’re just wonderful people, man.”
Shell remembered getting just one football scholarship offer. It was from South Carolina State. The partial scholarship was paired with a baseball scholarship that paid his way at the college. However, having just the lone football scholarship offer was a driving force for Shell.
“It gave me a lot of determination because you just wanted an opportunity and a chance,” Shell said, “and that’s what I had at South Carolina State University. And I went down and proved myself and proved my skills and was able to do pretty well.”
Shell now becomes one of four players from South Carolina State to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For him, being able to represent his alma mater is a great honor.
“It’s a great honor not only for me but also for South Carolina State University and the city of Orangeburg, also,” said Shell. “Everybody gets a chance to celebrate.”