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Pro Football Hall of Fame finally calls on S.C. State great Donnie Shell
Bulldog was part of "Steel Curtain" dynasty
Published Friday, January 17, 2020 12:00 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Rock Hill resident Donnie Shell (31) is the 10th member of the Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s and '80s inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Shell, a graduate of South Carolina State, is the fourth Bulldog to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, joining Deacon Jones, Marion Motley and Harry Carson.

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In 1974, Donnie Shell wasn’t considered worthy of being drafted by an NFL team.

Today he’s a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.

Shell, who played at South Carolina State, was a key component of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain” defense of the 1970s and ‘80s. An undrafted but hard-hitting safety with a nose for the ball, the Rock Hill resident is the 10th Steeler from that era to earn a place in the Hall of Fame. Shell, one of 15 members of the Centennial Class of 2020 to be inducted as part of the NFL’s 100th year, is the fourth S.C. State alum (Deacon Jones, Marion Motley and Harry Carson) enshrined in Canton.

“Wow. Wow,” Shell said Wednesday on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” in response to his induction. “That’s amazing. I’m at a loss for words.”

Shell is one of three alumni from historically black colleges in the hall’s Class of 2020, joining Southern’s Harold Carmichael, a receiver who earned multiple Pro Bowl berths with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1970s and ‘80s, and Texas Southern’s Winston Hill, an offensive tackle and member of the New York Jets’ team that beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

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When Shell retired in 1987, he held the NFL record for interceptions by a safety with 51 and twice picked off a career-high seven passes in two seasons as well as at least five passes a year over a six-season stretch (1979-84). Shell earned first-team All-Pro three times and an equal number of second-team accolades while earning five Pro Bowl berths.

Shell spent part of his retirement in Charlotte as the Carolina Panthers’ director of player development from 1994-2009, where he was a pioneer in that field. Under his leadership, Carolina earned the NFL’s Best Player Programs award in 1998-99 and Most Outstanding Player Program honor in 2000 by preparing players for life after football with financial education, family assistance, career internships and continuing education. In 2002, the NFL’s Player Development Department created the Winston/Shell Award, presented annually to the franchise with the most creative player development program.

Shell was also director of spiritual life at Johnson C. Smith, where he consulted former president Ron Carter as well as mentor students and staff. He also chaired Friendship Trays’ Drive Away Hunger golf tournament, a fundraiser to provide food for Mecklenburg County seniors and is an S.C. State trustee, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees.


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