Art Shell Enshrinement speech
Art Shell Enshrinement Speech 1989
Presenter: Al Davis
Just about a year ago at this time, I had the opportunity to present one of the great Raiders into the National Football League Hall of Fame and at that time there was a large crowd here from Pittsburgh that I thought was acting quite unruly. And I told them at that time if they didn't show a little bit more class, I would move this Hall of Fame to the west coast, but I'll tell you what they did to me, they moved it to Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
You know it is a funny thing, I think the only time the Raiders lost in Pittsburgh was the immaculate reception and we haven’t seen Frency Fuqua since after that game.
When they talk about the great decades of the 60s, the 70s and the 80s, I am reminded that on this platform that when I see the great Willie Wood, the Packers were certainly the team of the 60s. And when I see Mel Blount and the incomparable Terry Bradshaw, no one can deny that the decade of the 70s belonged to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Right now, with one more year to go, the San Francisco 49ers hold three Super Bowls to the Raiders two, so they certainly are the team for the 80s. But the team who bad the best record in the 60s, the 70s and the 80s were the Raiders of Oakland and Los Angeles. The only team to play in the Super Bowl in the 60s, the 70s and the 80s were the Raiders again of Oakland and Los Angeles.
But, more important, two players for the Raiders played in all three decades. One is number 63 the legendary Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw at left guard; and the magnificent Art Shell at number 78 at left tackle. They were truly a famed highway. Art Shell played Goliath to Gene Upshaw's Atlas and together over three decades, the 60s, 70s and 80s they gave the silver and black the most awesome tandem of offensive linemen to ever grace the game. An unbelievable continuity of durability and excellence for 14 years. The quarterbacks for these three decades were names like Flores, Lamonica, the legendary George Blanda, Stablerand Jim Plunkett. There was one left tackle in all three decades and his name was Art Shell.
Art Shell had so many great games, but one stands out as the epitome of an offensive lineman's challenge. On Jan. 9, 1977 in Super Bowl XI when the Raiders won the world championship of world football, Art Shell played a perfect game for left tackle. Against the fame and defensive purple people eaters’ defensive line of the NFC champion Minnesota Vikings, Art Shell's opponents were completely shut out, no tackles, no assists, no quarterback sacks, total domination. It is such a great inspiration to come to our field of dreams every year and conger up the glory of the past and renew our result to dream together and to work together. Maybe we cannot get our mythological heroes to come out of the myths and perform once more for us, but what we can do is crystalize them in our minds, recount moments they gave us, immortalize them in the field of dreams that we call the National Football League Hall of Fame. Through all the autumns and winters in the past three decades, the silver and black has been blessed in many ways. I know that everyone who saw the Raiders battle to the top in those early years has much to remember.
All those electrifying victories and heroic deeds, especially of Art Shell and one particular flashback that shows the true character of the man that I will never forget, the Raiders as a wild card team had battled to play the San Diego Chargers in the championship game in 1981 in San Diego, California. It would be electrifying. After a light practice on Saturday before the game, the coaches left the field, but I, the owner, the observer, watched as our team knelt in the center of the field and those two famed giants, Upshaw and Shell, standing in the middle of the team and it was Art Shell who was usually the quite one, lecturing to our team about the importance of the game and the greatness of the Raiders. It was more amazing because he had the toughest assignment in the whole game the next day, he had to play against the defensive end the brilliant Fred Dean of the San Diego Chargers. With seven minutes to go in the game, the Raiders led by six and had the ball, the crowd was in a uproar, employing the Chargers to get the ball back because as you know they were an explosive and dynamic team, but the Raiders drove on the ground for seven minutes and controlled that ball and won that game and most of the work was down over that left tackle number 78, Arthur Shell and on to New Orleans where we were the only wild card team to win a Super Bowl.
You know it is rare in our society, in our football culture where the will to win is so great and we have the glamorous stars, that we look into the trenches for greatness where the real battle is always being fought, where the gladiators live, where the Art Shells put their hearts and bodies on the line where anonymity is the rule and pain is the legal tender.
These fellows, the Art Shells, are the magnificent blue-collar warriors of football. Their arms encrusted with dried mud and bloody bandages, the huge bodies bulging out of their dirty armor and he had a huge body, their heads incased in terrifying helmets and cages. To the organization, to the Raider organization, they were the heart and soul of the team, the people who bleed for you, the people who win for you. Art Shell played when he was healthy, when he was hurt; the good times and the bad. He was a fierce combat warrior. He was a star among stars and with all the Super Bowls be played in and all the Super Bowls he won, he wore the coaching cap of the Raiders too and served as an assistant coach when we won the Super Bowl in 1983.
I want to say to the great class that sits over here on my left to come to this great Hall and walk through the exhibits to pay tribute to this great class, to the old-timers whom we honor here today and whose glory we all share and I have said this before, that it brings back a continued realization that we all owe them a debt and I and the Raiders will never forget that debt .
And now I have had many years of glory, but today is the glory for me to be able to serve in this role. My wife, Carol, is here; legendary Raiders like Brown, Upshaw, Otto, friends of Art Shell, Dr. Bob and Marge and, of course, his great family, Janice and the young ones, Artie and Christopher. I will sign you now. Art the Shell from Charleston, NC, the National Football League and the Raiders having down his job is ready to go home to the valley of the legendary giants. I have said this before that the enshrinement of Art Shell is like - the reaffirmation of the values and virtues of what is still the American way of life. The fires that burn brightest in him for the great love and enthusiasm that he had and has for the game of football for everyone and everything in life. He loved his team; he loved this league and he loved this game. But, more importantly, he played this game fiercely with loyalty and honor to a degree never surpassed and seldom never equalled. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Art Shell.
Thank you, Mr. Davis. It is a tough act to follow. I want to thank all of you fans for coming, even you Steeler fans. You boo us, but you still love us, you don't realize it, but you still love us, because you respect the way we play and how hard we play. You know yesterday I attended a luncheon with all the guys that are inducted into the Hall of Fame. You had to be there to understand the feeling that the rest of us went through and we are rookies, Terry, Mel, Wood and myself, we are all rookies, and these are veterans and when you go into a rookie camp and the veterans are there, you don't know what they expect. And all of a sudden, these veterans start and take you in, treating you as one of them and this is what we felt yesterday. I felt a tremendous opening of the heart to welcome us in to tell us that they felt that we were great football players. Coming from them, that meant so much to me and I want to thank them for being here to make this a very special weekend for all of us this year. Thank you.
You know as I look back, I look in the crowd and I see my family, I see a lot of friends, I see friends from Philadelphia, a family from Philadelphia, from New York, Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh too. That is a tremendous support and that is what and why I am here today because of that tremendous support. Aunts, nieces, nephews and, of course, in-laws from South Carolina, I am glad you are here.
I look back over my career, three decades of high school football, college football and, of course, the ultimate professional football and I see a tremendous, tremendous amount of support. I come from a family of five children, Bertha, Kenneth, Benny, Lawrence and myself, being the oldest, I had such tremendous support from them as I was growing up. They were always pushing me ahead and I had to set examples for them. And for their support, I truly love them for it. Thank you.
Starting in high school I had the good coaching from my high school coaches, Roosevelt Gilliam, no Roosevelt Gillian was my college coach, I'm beginning to lose myself now. James Fields and Eugene Gray were my high school coaches. I had good support, good training from them. Then I was lucky enough to receive a football scholarship to Maryland State College, a little school in Princess Ann, Maryland, schools where the Roger Browns, the Johnny Samples, the Marsha Gropers, the Charlie Stokes, these kinds of people who played in this league. And I went and had a coach by the name of Roosevelt Gilliam who is here today for my induction and he taught me so much about the game of football, but not just the game of football, but life in general. He and Mrs. Gilliam treated both me and the rest of the football team like we were their kids, they were our fathers and mothers away from home. And I love them for that. I cherish my moments in Maryland State College, I really do.
Moving into professional football ... you know when you put the silver and black uniform on you get such a surge of energy, believe me and a lot of football players around the country who want to wear that silver and black, a lot of them and I was fortunate enough to wear it. There was never a game we went into that we didn't think we could win no matter what circumstance no matter what the time of the game. If we had one minute to go and we needed a touchdown, we felt we could get it. And the greatness of the Raiders is in, when you talk about the Raiders, everyone knows you talk about the greatness, and the greatness of the Raiders you can see the great Gene Upshaw in the Hall of Fame, the great Jim Otto in the Hall of Fame, the great Willie Brown in the Hall of Fame, the great George Blanda in the Hall of Fame and last year, the great Fred Biletnikoff. That tells you what kind of greatness the Raider organization has.
I have a wonderful wife, Janice, two boys, Arther 15, Christopher 13. You don't know what it means to me to be standing here representing them, not just me, I am representing us. I represent them and I represent the Raider organization. This is what this is all about. The kind of support I am talking about that I had with them. There was never a time when I came home from a game, maybe I didn't play well and I knew it, and they would say to me, honey you played a good game, Dad you played a great game. I knew what they were doing, and it made my nights easier to sleep and I loved them for that. Thank you for your support.
I was fortunate to play in some of the greatest games in the history of the professional game. I played with some of the greatest players that ever played this game and I played against some of the greats as you see behind me and to my left. That is the ultimate. To play against these people, these great people who made this game what it is today, and I was glad to be one of those guys. I was coached by three of the greatest coaches of the Raiders history. John Rausch was one of my coaches. He led a team to the Super Bowl. John Madden was my second coach, he led a team to the Super Bowl and Tom Flores was my third coach and he also led a team to the Super Bowl, so that tells you what kind of coaches we had coming through the organization as well as players. The Raider organization can be summed up in two words or two nouns as you might say. Al Davis. He is the organization. The organization begins and it ends with him. His knowledge of the game is second to none. Every coach and every player that ever comes into this organization, ever came through has gained some wealth from that knowledge. And to this day I am still gaining and trying to pick his brain as much as I can because there is a lot there to be had.
This man has been an assistant coach in the NFL, he has been a head coach in the NFL, he has been a commissioner now he is an owner and general partner. What else could anyone do in the game of football. He has done it all, he's done it all. There is not a time that any ex-player or coach can't pick up the phone and call him. You can call him at any time, even if you are not a Raider. If you are a fan, you can still call, and he will answer you. Some people call him a Darth Vader of professional football and he can be, he is a very tough man, he is a tough man to work for as a player and as a coach. But you know what, he has a soft side to him. Not too many people know about it unless you are a part of the Raider family.
If you are a part of that Raider family, then you can understand what this man is all about. I love the man. The man has been good to me and my family. The man has been good to so many Raiders and their families and I love him for that. And, of course, we all know that behind every man there is a good woman. His lovely wife is Carol Davis that epitomizes the courage and love the Raiders have for each other and that lady loves everybody. There is not a bad word that can be said about that lady, so she is special to me, she is like mom and I appreciate it. I want to thank Al for making this occasion possible by having the courage to draft a guy from a small school, the patience to allow him to become a football player in the NFL and also the courage to give him a job as an assistant football coach in the NFL.
These are the kinds of things that I am talking about, loyalty which is so important to me as it is to him throughout the whole organization. I will end by offering my congratulations to my fellow inductees. I would also again thank Mr. Davis for being my presenter for this occasion and hopefully, hopefully next year there will be some more Raiders coming through. And hopefully next year he will be a presenter as well as an inductee. Thank you.