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Shell's HOF selection has teammates thrilled

Mel Blount was in his car driving to North Carolina when his phone rang on Wednesday morning. He looked and saw what the number was, that it was someone calling from the NFL office in New York, so he answered right away. Because he knew what it was about.

On the other end was Pete Abitante, special assistant to Commissioner Roger Goodell at the league office. And he was calling to deliver some good news, that Donnie Shell made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Centennial Class of 2020.

"I wanted to just scream. I am driving to North Carolina when I got the call, so I had to keep my calm," said Blount. "I think if I was in the house somewhere, I would have jumped up screaming and shouting. I am really excited for him.

"I personally, along with John Stallworth and Tony Dungy, had been lobbying for at least three or four years to convince voters Donnie was well qualified and deserving of being in the Hall of Fame. I am so happy he finally made it."

John Stallworth was sitting in his house in Huntsville, Alabama just waiting for Shell to come on NFL Network's Good Morning Football show. He knew it was coming, and when it did, he was beaming.

"I am as happy as can be," said Stallworth. "Over the last I don't know how many years, I don't know when I was more touched or excited about something happening to a friend of mine, a teammate of mine, as I am for this happening for him getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a well-deserved honor by the way.

"It rivals when I made it to the Hall of Fame. Donnie and I are so close and have been. We talk all of the time about our football days, what we are involved in now, our background. This equals my going in. I am so happy and proud for him and his whole family."

Stallworth said he watched Shell's interview on Good Morning Football feeling inspired, the same type of feeling he has gotten from Shell in some many other aspects in life.

"Watching that interview, you saw the type of individual Donnie is," said Stallworth. "He was inspirational when he talked about moving up through the ranks from high school, to college to the pro ranks and what it took to get there and thanking folks and telling about moving forward and the influence the coaches have on players.

"That has always been Donnie, someone who has always been inspirational. He was inspirational as a player on our team. What he brought to the game was inspiring to all of us. His life after football continued that way. He continues to inspire, even old crusty guys like me to try to be better, try to move forward and try to inspire others."

When Tony Dungy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 he didn't have to think twice about who he wanted his presenter to be. He chose Shell, a former teammate and a player he would go on to coach as a part of the Steelers' defensive staff.

His reasons for choosing Shell were plentiful. The two are close friends, are like family. Shell helped campaign for Dungy when he got elected to the Hall of Fame and Dungy thought the best thing to do was to have him as his presenter, putting him in front of the voters and audience as an avenue to get him voted in.

Dungy was absolutely thrilled when he got the news that Shell had finally got what he deserved.

"I am so happy for him. It's so well deserved," said Dungy. "Donnie called me after he got the news. I just could not believe it. You are always hoping, you think it's going to happen. I know for me waiting three or four times and it doesn't happen, you kind of prepare yourself for the disappointment. When he told me he got in, I was overjoyed.

"It's a special feeling for me because not only is he deserving because of how he played the position and everything he did, but for me personally to know how much he poured into me getting there, it means that much more to me. There is no way he shouldn't be in there. It's poetic justice. It's an awesome, awesome feeling."

Steelers President Art Rooney II had a regularly scheduled session with local media on Wednesday afternoon, and shared his excitement for Shell and Coach Bill Cowher, who learned over the weekend he was also going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Centennial Class of 2020.

"We didn't plan it this way but obviously it's a great day for Steelers football with Donnie Shell getting announced today for his induction into the Hall of Fame," said Rooney. "I couldn't be more excited about that. Long overdue as far as I'm concerned. One of the great players in Steelers' history. I couldn't be more excited. Obviously excited about Bill Cowher, his announcement over the weekend. So, we've kind of been on Cloud 9 around here the last few days."

That is a sentiment that has reverberated with all of Shell's former teammates, who have been on a mission to get him his Gold Jacket.

"I was in a meeting and I got the text and it put a big smile on my face. I said yes, another teammate joining the rest of us in the Hall of Fame," said Franco Harris. "I said, wow, the defense finally caught up to us."

The Steelers now have 10 players from the 1970s dynasty in the Hall of Fame, and like Harris said it's now an even balance of offense and defense. On offense you have Terry Bradshaw, Harris, Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Mike Webster. Defensively there is Blount, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and now Shell.

"I will be able to enjoy this forever now that Donnie Shell is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," said Harris. "I really look forward to sharing that induction day with him and all the years to follow. Donnie Shell is such a beautiful human being off the field. The things that he does off the field are Hall of Fame status also. A lot of the drive was Donnie as a person. We all know how great of a football player he was. How tough he was. How he made big plays, how he made things happen. He also made good things happen for people off the field and he continues to do that today."

Joe Greene, who was the first player from the 70s teams to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is hoping all of the Steelers Hall of Famers are in Canton to welcome Shell.

"This is so exciting," said Greene. "I am so happy for him, for Donnie, his family and for the rest of the team, for the Steelers organization.

"It's going to be fun. We may even get Jack Lambert and Terry Bradshaw out there for the enshrinement."

With Shell and Cowher already part of the Hall of Fame Centennial Class of 2020, and Alan Faneca and Troy Polamalu Modern Era finalists, Canton, Ohio will in fact be taken over by Steelers fans later this year.

"It could be an unbelievable Steelers week in Canton if it goes the way it should with Donnie and Bill Cowher and hopefully Troy and Alan making it too," said Dungy. "It would be unbelievable."

Below is reaction from social media to Shell making it to the Hall of Fame as well.

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