Donnie Shell -- South Carolina State University trustee and NFL football legend -- on Wednesday was selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive star from the "Steel Curtain" years of the was named along with 13 others to the hall of fame's centennial class. The announcement followed naming of coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson to the class this past weekend.
The 15 inductees will be joined by five modern-day selections announced the day before the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.
The Class of 2020 will be formally enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 8.
Shell’s selection was announced on NFL Network, and he appeared on the “Good Morning Football” show to discuss the honor.
“It’s a great feeling,” Shell said.
Shell, who was a finalist for the hall of fame one time before, in 2002, said, "Don’t give up on your dreams and aspirations.
"I believe that God created everybody with certain talents and gifts. Some people work a little harder to make those gifts come out, and I was one of those people.”
Shell will join three others from S.C. State in the hall of fame: Harry Carson, David “Deacon” Jones and Marion Motley.
"I offer heartfelt congratulations to Trustee Shell on being selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His selection is a well-deserved honor, and I could not be more proud than I am today. Trustee Shell has been an outstanding athlete and individual and we are happy to call him a ‘Loyal Son’ of S.C. State University," President James E. Clark said in a statement.
S.C. State Coach Emeritus Willie Jeffries only had Shell on his team for a year and a half, but the Bulldogs coaching great saw tremendous potential in the young man.
"This is special and we're so happy for Donnie, everybody I talk to is so happy," Jeffries said on Wednesday. "Donnie and I were both born in Union County. He was a linebacker, but I took him and made a strong safety out of him, since we had all freshman in the defensive backfield. We needed experience in the secondary, and he made the difference. With our coaches working with him, he learned how to backpedal and play a lot of man to man, like they were in the NFL. That helped him immensely.
"He will tell you Denver (Broncos) offered more money to him as a free agent. But I told him he had to go to Pittsburgh, even though they offered him a few thousand dollars less."
The rest is history. And, for Jeffries, Pittsburgh was in his history. He was coaching in Pittsburgh the year before he returned to Orangeburg to become the head coach at SC State. He saw how the Rooney family was building up the Steelers franchise.
Jeffries said some, including Harry Carson, have said that Shell shouldn't have been punished with waiting so long for his induction because so many Steeler greats were already put in the hall of fame. No matter the reasons for the delay, Shell will have his place of honor from now on.
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"All the Bulldogs are calling each other today and talking about how great this is for Donnie," Jeffries said. "He is a special guy and in Bulldog Country we are just elated."
After graduating from S.C. State in 1974, Shell joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent. As a member of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense, he helped lead the way to shutting down NFL offenses in the late 1970s. He won four Super Bowls and was selected to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl five consecutive times.
Upon his retirement in 1987, Shell was the NFL’s career leader in interceptions by a strong safety with 51 and is currently tied for 32nd all time. He started 11 straight years of his 14-year NFL career for the Steelers.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time first-team All-Pro pick, Shell was recognized by the Steelers as a member of their inaugural Hall of Honor class in 2017.
In 2015, Shell was selected to serve on the board of trustees for S.C. State. He is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and the College Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
Shell annually sponsors the Donnie Shell Invitational Golf Tournament to support the Donnie Shell Scholarship Foundation, which provides scholarships to S.C. State students who cannot afford to pay for their college tuition.
Each year the tournament brings together a collection of football greats for two days of events. Previous celebrities have included some of the most decorated college and NFL players: 30 Super Bowl rings and 10 college/NFL Hall of Fame players.
Shell and his wife are active in a variety of civic and cultural organizations, including The Mel Blount Youth, John Stallworth Scholarship Foundation and the Presidential Promise Scholarship Program at S.C. State.
Following his career as an athlete in the NFL, Shell was director of player development programs for the Carolina Panthers. In this role, he was the distinguished front office executive who coordinated all Panther player programs designed to help players succeed in their post-football careers.
Shell was recognized by the NFL in 2002 as a pioneer in player development and for the development of creative programs, such as the Winston/Shell Award. He is the recipient of the NFL award for the Best Player Program and was recognized for the Most Outstanding Player Program in 2000.
Shell received a bachelor of science in physical education, with a minor in biology, and a master's degree in education, both from S.C. State.
He is married to Paulette Richardson Shell. They are the proud parents of three children, April, Dawn and Donnie. They are also proud grandparents.
Here are other members of the Pro Football Centennial Class of 2020 named Wednesday:
- Jim Covert, OT, 1983-1990 Chicago Bears
- Winston Hill, OT, 1963-1976 New York Jets/1977 Los Angeles Rams
- Harold Carmichael, WR, 1971-1983 Philadelphia Eagles/1984 Dallas Cowboys
- Duke Slater, OT, 1922 Milwaukee Badgers/1922-25 Rock Island Independents/1926-1931 Chicago Cardinals
- Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB, 1944-1955 Chicago Bears
- Steve Sabol, administrator/president, 1964-2012 NFL Films
- Alex Karras, DT, 1958-1962, 1964-1970 Detroit Lions
- Bobby Dillon, S, 1952-1959 Green Bay Packers
- George Young, contributor/general manager, 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
- Cliff Harris, S, 1970-1979 Dallas Cowboys
- Mac Speedie, End, 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns
- Paul Tagliabue, commissioner, 1989-2006 NFL