Finally! One of the greatest Kansas City Chiefs of all time, guard Will Shields, has taken his place among the best of the best with the announcement that the 12-time Pro Bowler was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2015 Class.
Shields joins former San Diego linebacker Junior Seau, former Oakland wide receiver Tim Brown, former San Francisco/Dallas defensive end Charles Haley; former Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis, former Minnesota center Mick Tingelhoff and former general managers Ron Wolf and Bill Polian. Tingelhoff was nominated by the Seniors Committee while Wolf and Polian were elected as Contributors.
But hearts of Chiefs fans around the country are warmed by the news that Shields finally got into the Hall in his fourth year of eligibility. There is no doubt that his position of guard delayed his entry into football immortality, but not many men in the history of the game played the position better than Shields.
Shields was a third-round draft pick out of the University of Nebraska by Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer in 1993. Shields has said that his offensive line coach that year, the legendary Alex Gibbs, did not like the rookie and doubted he could make an impact.
However, Shields’ work ethic and tenacity won Gibbs over by the time training camp finished. Even so, Shields did not earn the starting job at guard coming out of training camp that summer and was on the bench for the opening game of that season.
However, Shields did not sit long. He came off the bench to play left guard in the season opener of his rookie year and Schottenheimer made him the starter at right guard the next week. After that, Shields never missed another start for the next 14 years. That’s a Chiefs franchise-record 224 games and 223 starts. His 12 consecutive Pro Bowl selections are tied for sixth most in NFL history. He retired after the 2006 season.
“Will’s achievements and contributions to our franchise and community over 14 seasons were extraordinary,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said after finding out about Shields’ honor. “Will was a true ‘iron man’ – never missing a game in 14 seasons – and his career and character place him among the greatest in Chiefs history. Will’s enshrinement further cements his place as one of the NFL’s all-time greats. He spent his entire career in a Chiefs uniform; he embraced the city and our fans and we are thrilled for Will, his wife Senia and the Shields family.”
Shields becomes the 11th longtime member of the Chiefs to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He joins Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Len Dawson, Lamar Hunt, Willie Lanier, Jan Stenerud, Hank Stram, Derrick Thomas, Emmitt Thomas and Curley Culp, who all have earned the NFL’s top honor.
Other Hall of Famers that spent at least part of their careers with Kansas City are Marcus Allen, Marv Levy, Joe Montana, Warren Moon, Willie Roaf, and Mike Webster.
Montana and Allen benefitted from Shields stellar play when they joined the Chiefs prior to the 1993 season, but it was when left tackle Roaf joined the team in 2002 that things turned special for Shields and the Chiefs offense. Shields, Roaf, left guard Brian Waters, center Casey Wiegmann, and right tackle John Tait formed a unit that some NFL historians consider to be one of the greatest offensive lines of all time.
With head coach Dick Vermeil at the helm and offensive coordinator Al Saunders pulling the strings, that line opened things up for running back Priest Holmes, quarterback Trent Green, tight end Tony Gonzalez, and wide receiver Eddie Kennison to rank at the top of NFL offenses.
From 2002 to 2005, the Chiefs offense ranked first, first, second, and sixth in the NFL in points scored. Shields, who played at 6 feet 3 and 320 pounds, helped pave the way for five 1,000-yard rushers in the 2000s, including NFL rushing leader Holmes (1,555 yards) in 2001 and AFC rushing leader Larry Johnson (1,750) in 2005.
Shields is without doubt one of the most beloved Chiefs, partly because of his demeanor during his playing days, his constant excellence, and because of the franchise’s success during his time. But his off-field work and charities turned him from a great ballplayer to a great man. In 2003, the entire NFL community recognized Shields for his extensive work off the field as he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year winner.
At the time, he was the fourth member of the Chiefs to be honored, recognizing not only on-field excellence but also off-the-field outreach. Through Shields’ “Will to Succeed Foundation” that he established in 1993, more than 100,000 individuals have been positively impacted through various programs.
He earned the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s 2010 Man of the Year which, similar to the Payton Award, recognizes excellence on the field and for public service in the community, though the Camp award is often given to former players and not active ones. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Chiefs Hall of Fame, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, and his jersey was retired by the University of Nebraska.
Shields and his new classmates will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 8.