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Colbert: 'He was unique in that manner'

There are many who have benefited from the work that Bill Nunn, the newly elected member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, did during his illustrious career in the newspaper business at the Pittsburgh Courier and with the Steelers.

Players like John Stallworth, Donnie Shell, Mel Blount, L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White, just to name a few, were among the notable names who came from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that Nunn paved the way for.

But the individuals he helped along the way weren't just limited to players from HBCUs. Nunn's impact went well beyond that.

"When he did his work with the Courier, he had ties to the HBCUs that were unique," said General Manager Kevin Colbert on the WDVE Radio morning show. "I think the Rooney family recognized that. That wasn't an easy access for non-minorities quite honestly. Bill could break down a lot of barriers and get the information and find out some things other people couldn't and that was huge.

"Bill was so much more than the HBCU guy. That was his specialty, no doubt. But Bill could go into any college and sit in and evaluate players and talk to coaches as if he was sitting in his living room or office. He was unique in that manner.

"The first day I spent with Bill on the road was at Boston College. We spent the day evaluating players. I always emphasize that Bill was so much more than the HBCU guy. He could thrive in any environment.

"He knew, and he understood, he might be blazing trails for those that followed him no matter what their race was, people like myself he helped. He helped us become better evaluators. The minority world I am sure he opened tons of doors. It was never a subject with Bill. It really wasn't. He would just go about his business. You recognized him for who he was.

"He could tell the stories about (Roberto) Clemente, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and entertainers like Lena Horne, and everybody that passed through this city it seemed like Bill knew. He was never on a path other than to be simply who he was, respect him for who he was and how he did his job. That is how he went about his business. It wasn't an endeavor to gain respect. He just gained respect from his everyday actions."

Colbert considers himself among the lucky ones to have known Nunn on different levels, from learning from him early in his career, working alongside him, and being a close friend. It's that combination that has him thrilled to have Nunn getting his rightful spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I first knew of Bill growing up in Pittsburgh, knowing some of (the Steelers) personnel through connections we had at North Catholic High School through the Rooney family," said Colbert. "We got to visit training camp when we were younger and growing in the business. Bill was noticeable at that point. Before I got to Pittsburgh, I often spent time with Bill on the road. Just his knowledge about what this business was about and how he went about it. Not just in a talking phase to people like myself, but just to watch him work. When he was with us on a day-to-day basis, when we were in the same office, it was a lesson to be around him and hear so many different stories.

"The contributions he made to our evaluation process were priceless."

Evaluating Faneca: Speaking of the evaluation process, Colbert did just that when it came to Alan Faneca, who is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021.

When the Steelers selected Faneca in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft, Colbert was the pro scouting director for the Detroit Lions. He said Faneca was a player the Lions evaluated.

"We knew he was a unique player," said Colbert. "We had high grades on him. Alan had a unique sense of balance and tenacity for his size. A lot of times offensive linemen have a mean streak to them. They have the size, but to coordinate that and be able to stay on your feet and finish and sustain blocks in the run game, the interior part of the line, getting to linebackers, in pass protection and pulling, and different things like that. I think Alan's unique contact balance is what separated him.

"For offensive linemen to be able to get into the Hall of Fame they have to do it over a sustained amount of time, which Alan did."

The standard: In August, it won't just be Nunn and Faneca who are enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They will be joined by Bill Cowher, Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell, all members of the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 who had their enshrinement ceremony moved because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the addition of the five, the Steelers will have 29 members of the organization in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"The standard was set long, long ago. It's remarkable," said Colbert. "That's a unique class. It talks about the personnel folks, great players and a great coach. All who were Super Bowl champions. That standard was set a long time ago, it's our obligation to uphold that. Trust me we recognize that every day when we walk into this building and we walk past six trophies. You understand your job is to try to get the seventh and nothing else."

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