Donnie Shell

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Donnie Shell

14 Seasons
201 Games
51 Career Interceptions
5 Pro Bowls
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14

Seasons

201

Games

51

Career Interceptions

5

Pro Bowls
View full stats

“Once I proved to myself, I was learning, I knew I would make it. I’ve always believed in myself and I’ve always worked hard enough to be successful at whatever I take on.”

Read Donnie Shell's Bio

(South Carolina State)...5'11'', 190...Signed as free agent and earned starting role at end of rookie season … Recorded interception in his first career start … Hard-hitting tackler and integral member of Steelers’ vaunted defense … Played in six AFC championship games and four Super Bowls … Recorded five or more picks in season six straight years, 1979-1984 … Led or shared team lead in interceptions five times (1980, 1982-84, 1986) … Career stats: 51 interceptions for 490 yards … Recovered two fumbles for TD … Selected First-Team All-Pro three times (1979, 1980, 1982) … Second-Team All-Pro three times … All-AFC twice … Voted to five consecutive Pro Bowls … Named to Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team … Born August 26, 1952 in Whitmire, South Carolina.

BIO

Donnie Shell Pittsburgh Steelers

“Once I proved to myself, I was learning, I knew I would make it. I’ve always believed in myself and I’ve always worked hard enough to be successful at whatever I take on.”

Donnie Shell, a two-time team MVP and All-Mid-Eastern Conference player at South Carolina State, signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974.

A fierce hitter, Shell intercepted at least one pass in each of his 14 seasons with the Steelers.  His 51 interceptions made him the first strong safety in the history of the National Football League to surpass the 50-interception mark.  

One of seven brothers in a family of 10, Shell methodically progressed through the ranks from a special teams player and a part-time defensive back as a rookie, to a starting strong safety, earning that spot in 1977 when he replaced former Pro Bowler Glen Edwards. 

Following the 1978 season he was named to the first of his five consecutive Pro Bowl teams.  He was also named first- or second-team All-Pro five times, 1978 through 1982.

In 1980 Shell led all Steelers defenders with a career-high seven interceptions and was named the team’s MVP.  In a 1981 game against archrival Cleveland Browns, the ball-hawking Shell became the first Steeler since 1973 to have three interceptions in a single game. 

Shell, in 1984, duplicated his team- and career-best seven-interception effort. Counting 1982, 1983 and 1986 when he was team co-leader in interceptions, he led or shared the lead in interceptions five out of seven years.  Adding to the significance of his accomplishments, his five interceptions in 1982 came during a strike-shortened, nine-game season.

In addition to having a nose for the ball, Shell was also a devastating tackler.  He led the team in tackles in both 1982 and 1984, and was the leading tackler in the Steelers secondary for six consecutive years (1981-1986). 

His 51 career interceptions rank him third in Steelers history, behind Hall of Famer Mel Blount (57) and Jack Butler (52), and his 19 opponent fumble recoveries are just behind Hall of Famer Jack Ham (21) as a second-best performance by a Steeler. A durable player, Shell is tied for second most seasons played behind only Hall of Fame center Mike Webster.

STATS

Donnie Shell's Stats

 

 

 

 

Interceptions

 

 

Year

Team

G

No.

Yds.

Avg.

TD

1974

Pittsburgh

14

1

0

0.0

0

1975

Pittsburgh

14

1

29

29.0

0

1976

Pittsburgh

14

1

4

4.0

0

1977

Pittsburgh

12

3

14

4.7

0

1978

Pittsburgh

16

3

21

7.0

0

1979

Pittsburgh

16

5

10

2.0

0

1980

Pittsburgh

16

7

135

19.3

0

1981

Pittsburgh

14

5

52

10.4

0

1982

Pittsburgh

9

5

27

5.4

0

1983

Pittsburgh

16

5

18

2.6

0

1984

Pittsburgh

16

7

61

15.3

1

1985

Pittsburgh

16

4

40

13.3

0

1986

Pittsburgh

15

3

29

29.0

0

1987

Pittsburgh

13

1

50

1.0

1

Career Total

201

51

490

9.6

2

               
 

Additional Career Statistics: Receiving: 2-39; Punt Returns, 1-6; Fumble Recoveries for TD: 2



CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

Donnie Shell's Championship Games

Championship Games
 

1974 AFCPittsburgh Steelers 24, Oakland Raiders 13

Shell did not start but played.  He had three tackles and one pass defensed.


1975 AFC – Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Oakland Raiders 10

Shell did not start but played.


1976 AFC – Oakland Raiders 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 7

Shell did not start but played.  He had one tackle.


1978 AFC – Pittsburgh Steelers 34, Houston Oilers 5

Shell started at strong safety.  He had six tackles and one interception for 5 yards.           


1979 AFC – Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Houston Oilers 13

Shell started at strong safety.  He had one tackle, two assists, one pass defensed, and one fumble recovery.


1984 AFC – Miami Dolphins 45, Pittsburgh Steelers 28

Shell started at strong safety.  He had three tackles, one assist, one pass defensed, and intercepted one pass for 18 yards.

 

Super Bowls
 

Super Bowl IX – Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Minnesota Vikings 6

Shell did not start but played.  He recorded one tackle.       


Super Bowl X – Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17

Shell did not start but played.  He recorded one tackle.


Super Bowl XIII – Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

Shell started at strong safety.  He recorded five tackles, three assists, and one pass defensed.


Super Bowl XIV – Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19

Shell started at strong safety.  He recorded five tackles, three assists, and one pass defensed.



CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Donnie Shell's Career Highlights

All-League Teams

All-Pro: 1979 (AP, NEA)  ·  1980 (AP, PFWA, NEA, SN)  ·  1982 (AP, PFWA)

All-Pro Second Team: 1978 (NEA)  ·  1981 (AP)  ·  1982 (NEA)

All-AFC: 1979 (SN)  ·  1980 (UPI, PW)

All-AFC Second Team: 1978 (UPI)  ·  1981 (UPI)

 

Pro Bowls

(5) – 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983

 

Team Records

Steelers’ records held by Shell at the time of his retirement following the 1987 season

·       [Tied for 1st] Most Seasons – 14

·       [2nd] Most Games Played – 201

·       [Tied for 2nd] Most Interceptions, Game – 3 (vs. Cleveland Browns, Nov. 22, 1981)

·       [3rd] Most Interceptions, Career – 51

 

League/Team Statistical Titles

 

AFC Statistical Championships

Interception Leader: 1982*

 

Team Statistical Championships

Interception Leader: 1980, 1982*, 1983*, 1984, 1986*

* Co-leader

 

Awards and Honors

·    Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team

 

Year-by-Year Team Records

1974     Pittsburgh Steelers........... 10-3-1  (1st)

1975     Pittsburgh Steelers........... 12-2-0   (1st)

1976     Pittsburgh Steelers........... 10-4-0   (1st)

1977     Pittsburgh Steelers............ 9-5-0   (1st)

1978     Pittsburgh Steelers........... 14-2-0   (1st)

1979     Pittsburgh Steelers........... 12-4-0   (1st)

1980     Pittsburgh Steelers............... 9-7-0   (3rd)

1981     Pittsburgh Steelers............... 8-8-0   (2nd)

1982     Pittsburgh Steelers............ 6-3-0   (4th*)

1983     Pittsburgh Steelers........... 10-6-0   (1st)

1984     Pittsburgh Steelers............ 9-7-0   (1st)

1985     Pittsburgh Steelers............... 7-9-0   (3rd)

1986     Pittsburgh Steelers............. 6-10-0   (3rd)

1987     Pittsburgh Steelers............... 8-7-0   (3rd)

* AFC regular season finish in strike-shortened season.

(Division Finish in Parentheses)

CAREER CAPSULE

Donnie Shell's Career Capsule

Full Name: Donnie Shell

Birthdate: August 26, 1952

Birthplace: Whitmire, South Carolina

High School: Whitmire (SC)

Pro Career: 14 seasons, 201 games

Drafted: Signed as a free agent by Pittsburgh in 1974.



ENSHRINEMENT SPEECH

Donnie Shell Enshrinement Speech

ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Donnie Shell for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, April Shell.  (Applause.)

DONNIE SHELL:  Thank you.  First I would like to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for this award.  I would like to acknowledge my parents, Aurelia and Leon Shell, my wife's parents, Norris and Francia Richardson.  Played a critical part in our lives and children's lives, and now our grandchildren. 

I appreciate my wife Paulette of 45 years putting up with me, and my children April, Dawn, Donnie, and Octavius, who are here tonight.  The love of my life, my grandchildren, Xena, Xoe and Elle. Very special.  All of my family, the Shell family, like to acknowledge them.  Kitzcy and Hollis Johnson and Coach Lefty Johnson, my high school coach.  Coach and my parents, I know you're very proud.  And Coach, we made it.  (Applause.)

All my friends in Whitmire, South Carolina and South Carolina State University acting president Alex Conyers who's celebrating 125 years of existence.  I would encourage all parents to send their kids to South Carolina State University, because someday they may be a general in the army, a Supreme Court Justice, a United States congress representative, or maybe, just maybe, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  (Applause.)

I like to thank David Baker and the 'Blue Ribbon Committee and his staff, all my former teammates, president of the Steeler organization, Arthur Rooney, II.  Appreciate you. 

And last but not least, Steeler Nation.  (Applause.)

All right, thank you very much.  I appreciate it.

It's been a long journey but a good one.  I arrived in Pittsburgh in 1974 as an undrafted free agent and now I'm in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Only God can do that.  When I first arrived in training camp, a reporter mentioned to me, I want to interview you after you have lunch.  I said, sure. 

He begins the interview with this statement:  Don't you know you're a long shot to make the Steelers team because you're undrafted and a free agent and you're not going to get many reps or many chances in practice to show what you can do on the field? 

Obviously he's not familiar with Coach Willie Jeffries from South Carolina State University and the South Carolina State Bulldog tenacity. 

However, factually he was correct.  When the facts get in the way of your goal you must go against the grain of what is true to achieve your goal.

So I looked him square in the eye and I said, Mister, I'm from South Carolina State University.  Coach Willie Jeffries say I can do whatever I want to do when I get to training camp and I'll have a good chance to make this team. 

The thing I like about Coach Chuck Noll is he did not care about where you came from or what college you went to, but are you self-motivated. 

Praise God for coaches who are not only coaches in HBCUs, but mentors and fathers to their players.  Praise God for (indiscernible.) (Applause) who advocated for HBCU players across the NFL, and had the foreseeability to switch me from linebacker to strong safety. 

Please do not let obstacles, trials, or unforeseen circumstances deter you from accomplishing your dreams and goals you set for yourselves.  At the end of training camp I was one of 13 rookies to make that team.

I just like to leave you a few encouraging words of Scripture.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9 says, we have this treasure in earthen vessels in jars of clay, that the excellency of the power be of God and not of ourselves.  Sometimes we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.  We're perplexed, but not in despair.  We're persecuted, but not forsaken.  We are struck down, but not destroyed. 

I thank God we always have a "but not" with God.

Romans 5:3-5, And not only that, but we glory in tribulations knowing that tribulations produce perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope because the love of God been shared in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

We must be steadfast, unmovable, always divine in the work of the Lord knowing the labor in the Lord is not in vain. 

In closing, we in the United States must become servant leaders, and a great example of that is still today and all my 14 years, the Steelers Organization of being a servant leader.  (Applause.)

A servant leader is one who is motivated by love and humility, but demonstrated by example.  That's what we need to do.  May God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.  Thank you.