SportsJam with Doug Doyle: Hall of Famer and Steelers Great Donnie Shell joins D2C

Oct 7, 2020

Donnie Shell, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class of 2020, is now an Executive Advisor with Charlotte-based nonprofit organization D2C, founded by M. Quentin Williams in 2012
Credit Pro Football Hall of Fame

Dedication to Community (D2C) has added 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and Pittsburgh Steelers great Donnie Shell as its Executive Advisor to its rapidly growing Sports Division.

Shell, nicknamed "The Torpedo" by his late Steelers teammate Dwight White, played on some of the greatest defensive teams in NFL History and is a four-time Super Bowl Champion.  He also made just as much impact during his 15 years in player development with the Carolina Panthers.  

Donnie Shell is the latest guest on SportsJam with Doug Doyle.

D2C is based in Charlotte, North Carolina and is a national nonprofit organization that educates and empowers communities through skills-building workshops and ongoing forums designed to improve understanding and build relationships while pursuing healthy reconcilliation and unity.
Credit D2C

Shell joins Lamonte Winston, National Director of D2C's Sports Division in the organization's proactive efforts to grow relationship between teams, athletes, law enforcement and community of all ages and sizes.  In 2002, the NFL created the Winston-Shell Award, given annually to the team with the best player-development program. 

Shell is excited about his new position.

"D2C is a great organization.  I've known Quentin Williams for a long while and now he wants to add a sports division to it.  We'll be reaching out to coaches and athletes about using their platform to make a difference in their community.  One of them is building relationship with law enforcement.  First of all you have to start with respect.  You can't have a relationship if you don't have respect.  Then you talk about the culture that you're in.  Then you talk about relationships and reconcilliations because some people have been hurt in their relationships in their community with law enforcement and vice versa."

Shell, who is on the Board of Trustees at his alm mater South Carolina State University, thinks the NFL has done an oustanding job when it comes to dealing with COVID-19 and getting the latest season underway.

"No one knows how to handle COVID.  They have some protocols in place and have thought about the welfare of the players, coaches, their staff and their families.  It's steady as she goes.  It's a very fluid situation.  I think (the NFL) has done a great job in adjusting like we (South Carolina State University) are in society."

The former All-pro of the Steelers says his experiences through the years have helped his prioritize his life and desires.

"We live in a world that is kind of chaotic right now but I think what all people need is a little love and encouragement and that's what D2C is trying to do.  It's going to be a great thing.  In the midst of this pandemic you can always some good to do."

The Donnie Shell Scholarship Foundation helps students with their education needs
Credit Donnie Shell Scholarship Foundation

Shell is a man of deep faith and ran Bible study sessions with his Steeler teammates.  His passion to help others led to him establishing the Donnie Shell Scholarship Foundation at South Carolina State University.

"Most of our students come from the rural areas of South Carolina and they don't have very much and they are in need of financial assistance.  Smart and intelligent students but they just don't have the financial means to pay for their college education. So what we do when they've exhausted all their financial means we come in and give gap scholarships such as a thousand dollars, 15-hundred dollars, where a student might need a computer or books or any other necessities, we'll fill in that gap.  I can identify with the students we have because I was one of them.  Nine brothers and sisters, my parents couldn't afford college tuition, and I ended up getting a scholarship in football and baseball, that's how I got my education, so I can identify with the students we support."  

Donnie Shell was one some top-notch baseball teams at South Carolina State University
Credit Black College Nines

Shell was a left-handed pitcher at Whitmire High School where he starred in many sports.  He would eventually play outfield for South Carolina State University and linebacker and safety on the football team.

The Hall of Famer gives credit to the late Bill Nunn, Steelers super scout and former sportswriter, who had great relationships with Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU).  What did he learn from Nunn and his coaches through the years, especially when he was undrafted in 1974 and had to make the Steelers as a special teams player?

"I never sat on the bench in anything in my life Doug until I came to Pittsburgh.  That's discouraging but what I want people, especially young people to know 'Don't give up on your dreams!'  You may have delays, divine delays, it's for a purpose.  All those times when I was waiting I was continuing to work on my craft and my skills and getty ready and when the opportunity came I was ready and prepared for it."

Donnie Shell shows excitement over his Pro Football Hall of Fame announcement
Credit Perry Knotts/AP

Ready indeed.  Shell had plenty of big hits from his strong safety position and grabbed at least one interception in each of his 14 seasons in the National Football league, 51 overall, to go with 19 career fumble recoveries and four defensive touchdowns.  That effort helped "The Torpedo" be an integral part of the famous "Steel Curtain" defense as he represented the AFC in the Pro Bowl five consecutive seasons as a Steeler. 

Shell's hard-hitting was on full display in 1978 when he hit Houston Oilers running back and fellow Hall of Famer Earl Campbell in the ribs.  Campbell fumbled on the player and didn't return that game.  Number 31 describes the play on this edition of SportsJam. 

Donnie Shell was a ball hawk for the Steelers and left the game after 14 seasons with 51 career interceptions
Credit Pro Football Hall of Fame

Shell broke down in tears when talking about what teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Mel Blount, did for him.  When Shell was a rookie with the Steelers in 1974, Blount noticed what a great job Shell was doingon special teams and took him out to dinner to encourage the newcomer to continue to play hard and be a part of a team that could make the Super Bowl.  The Steelers would go on to win four Super Bowls during Shell's career, two of them in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh.

Shell has been married to his wife Paulette for 43 years and has three grown children.  One of them, April, is helping Donnie on a memoir.

Click above to hear much more about Donnie Shell's family, football career, and his new role with D2C.