Donnie Shell understands what it took. He knows he wouldn't be where he is today without help along the way. And what he wants now, is to give others the same opportunity he had.
Shell, who played 14 seasons for the Steelers and was a part of four Super Bowl championship teams, grew up as one of nine siblings, and without an athletic scholarship to South Carolina State, getting a college education wouldn't have been a possibility.
That is why he hosted the third annual Donnie Shell Celebrity Golf Tournament at Sage Valley Golf Club. The tournament is the main fundraiser for the Donnie Shell Scholarship Foundation, which provides assistance to students at South Carolina State.
"It's a blessing to be able to do this," said Shell. "It came from an idea of wanting to help and give back, combined with hard work and determination and some great sponsors, including the Steelers and our presenting sponsors Electrolux Major Appliances and Sage Valley Golf Club."
Shell's former teammates, as well as other Steelers alumni and celebrities, came out in full force to help him in his efforts, with Mel Blount serving as the keynote speaker for the dinner.
"It's so encouraging to have them be a part of it," said Shell. "When you get a call from a former teammate and they are willing to help you, it means so much. We support each other in a greater cause to help other people.
"Football creates relationships. We promised each other we would keep in touch with each other, and we have done that. It's always interesting to see what everyone has done with what Chuck Noll used to call their life's work. It's really unique. The other guys are doing great things to help young people and doing what God called them to do."
The golf tournament has raised over $150,000 in the first two years, and seeing it grow each year is exactly what he envisioned when it all kicked off.
"It means a lot to me," said Shell. "So many people, teachers, professors, coaches, and mentors gave back to me at South Carolina State. I am so happy my wife Paulette and I, and our family, can give back to the school that helped us so much. Not only helped us, but my children.
"The kids we help, they are like us. They come from rural areas, don't have a lot, want an education, but the parents can't afford the tuition. We want to help as many as we can, kids who are trying, staying out of trouble, and are willing to work."
Shell is also working with the school's Presidential Promise Scholarship Program, which doesn't just require the students to do well academically, but also give back by working in different departments throughout the university providing service hours.
For Shell, having the scholarship foundation was something that was instilled in him during his playing day.
"I saw a great example of that with the Rooney family, from Art, 'The Chief,' when I came in, then Dan, and now Art II," said Shell. "They have always been active in the community and giving back to other people. They set a great example. When you are going through it you don't realize it as much. Then you see the Rooney family out in the community doing things to help others, and that rubs off on you when you are with an organization for 14 years."
You can help Shell by visiting the Donnie Shell Scholarship Foundation and lending your support.