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The Life and Career of Chiefs Legend, Will Shields

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By BJ Kissel

Chiefs Reporter

One of the most decorated and revered players in Kansas City Chiefs franchise history will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 8.

Will Shields, who will become the 11th longtime member of the Chiefs to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, recently earned some of the highest praise a player can receive from Chiefs Chairman and CEO, Clark Hunt.

“He truly embodies everything we want our players to be,” Hunt said of Shields. “It’s very special for every NFL team when one of their own goes into the Hall of Fame. We couldn’t be more excited to have Will Shields go in this year.

“He’s such a deserving football player and person.”

The list of accomplishments for Shields on the field is long and distinguished.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Played more games in a Chiefs uniform than any other player in franchise history (224)
  • Started 223 consecutive games, which is a franchise record
  • Made 12 consecutive Pro Bowls between 1995-2006
  • Named to the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2000s
  • Won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2003

But one of the most recognizable aspects of Shields’ career is that he spent all 14 years with the Chiefs.

He’ll be the first Chiefs offensive player who spent his entire career in Kansas City to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Certainly that’s something that’s rarer and rarer nowadays in having a player spend his entire career with one team,” Hunt said. “[Shields] was the ultimate iron man for us and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have somebody who is truly a Chief from start to finish going into the Hall of Fame.”

But to simply stop at the list of on-field accomplishments in explaining what Shields has not only meant to the Chiefs organization, but also to the Kansas City community, would be selling him short of maybe his greatest attribute as a person.

For everything Shields accomplished on the field, which comes with the distinction of arguably being the greatest right guard to ever play in the NFL, what he was able to do away from the field had a far greater impact than what he was doing on Sundays.

On the field, he paved the way for guys like Marcus Allen and Priest Holmes to run all over opposing defenses in historic fashion. Away from it, he was paving the way for those in need with his Will to Succeed Foundation. Through that medium, Shields has helped those in the Kansas City community improve and change their lives for the better.

This perhaps is Shields’ greatest legacy, which is still very much alive today in Kansas City.

“From the early days when my father brought the Chiefs to Kansas City, he encouraged the players and others in the organization to get involved in the community,” Hunt said. “We drafted Will in 1993 and that was the first year he started his foundation, Will to Succeed.

“He didn’t wait to become established as a player; he got involved from day one.”

But long before Shields ever stepped foot on an NFL field, or even a college field, he was just a kid growing up in Lawton, Oklahoma.

Growing up in the Midwest

Shields was born a little more than two hours west of Arrowhead Stadium in Fort Riley, Kansas.

Despite the close proximity to Arrowhead early in his life, Shields spent less than two years at Fort Riley, a military base just outside of Manhattan, before his family moved to Lawton, Oklahoma, just south of Fort Sill.

“It’s a pretty small town,” Shields explained of Lawton. “In history, as we go through it, it’s known as the drug capital of Oklahoma. I guess known in a sense by [former Oklahoma coach] Barry Switzer.”

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Media Relations Office

Switzer’s comments were in reference to the arrest of his starting quarterback at the time, Charles Thompson, who along with Shields attended Lawton High School.

His remarks set off a media firestorm that could only be trumped by the initial story. Thompson, who had led Oklahoma to being one of the best teams in the country, had been arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover FBI agent.

Besides Shields, Thompson and a couple of others, there weren’t many guys at Lawton High School who were looking for a future in football, and that made for an interesting path.

“It was different being in a school that barely had a few kids that came out trying to get to the next level,” Shields explained. “As a player, we never really knew how good we were until there was an article that came out in the paper saying, ‘These kids can play DI football.’

“That was sort of unique. At that time, some of us never thought about DI football.”

Besides Lawton, there were two other high schools in the area—Eisenhower and MacArthur.

Shields remembers the rivalry between these schools and how things were different back when he was playing.

“They had to split the crowds up [during games] so they didn’t get into fights,” Shields recalled. “But it was normal teenage stuff. Back then there wasn’t as much shooting and those kinds of things. It was more or less the fistfight and then you can fight again another day, so you learned a different mentality.

“It was unique growing up there and I loved every minute of it.”

As Shields reflected on a storied career, he recalled one particular Pro Bowl that gave him a sense of pride in where he came from.

“Of course, being a ‘military brat,’ as they call us, there was one year we looked at it and almost 40 percent of us who were in the Pro Bowl came from military backgrounds,” he said. “It was really unique to know that that discipline sort of set us apart for where we wanted to go or what we wanted to do.”

That discipline, which was the foundation of what could soon be referred to as a Hall of Fame career, was instrumental in allowing Shields to start 223 consecutive games for the Chiefs between 1993 and 2006, a record that still stands today as the best in franchise history.

Chiefs GM, Carl Peterson (far right) recognizes Will Shields for starting 200 consectutive games for the Chiefs.

But it wasn’t just discipline. Shields, like most of the all-time greats in any sport, was motivated by those who doubted him.

“In high school, I had a teacher tell me that English was going to eat me up, that it was going to be the worst thing ever,” he explained. “It gave me a little more motivation to say ‘I’m going to get my degree. I’m going to move forward and I’m going to do those things.’

“You kind of like that nudge when someone tells you that you can’t, and then you go out and prove them wrong.”

From Lawton to Lincoln – The story of his recruitment to Nebraska

In the 1987 Oklahoma high school football 5A state championship game, Lawton High School, led by Shields and company, faced Edmond, a team that had only given up 13 points in its first three playoff games combined.

In fact, Edmond had outscored opponents 73-13 in those games.

But Lawton, led by Shields and a couple of other future NFL players, had no problem taking care of Edmond, winning the championship game in convincing fashion by a score of 28-0.

"We had a great running back in Dewell Brewer,” Shields recalled. “He was touted as the number two back in the nation. [We] had a linebacker that was fast as all get out. James Trapp, he ended up going to play for Baltimore. Dewell played for Seattle for a while.”

Shields, a junior that year, was looking towards his future in football despite the feeling of being overshadowed by his teammates.

“I was sort of the background guy, the big kid that really people couldn't feel where we were going to go,” Shields said. “I ended up getting recruited by OSU, OU, Nebraska, Tulsa and Arkansas.”

Arkansas, which was then coached by the defensive-minded Ken Hatfield, had gone 38-11 between 1985-88. Upon Shields’ arrival, Hatfield wanted him to play on the defensive side of the ball.

“They wanted me to be a defensive lineman,” Shields recalled. “So I would have been a D-end or a D-tackle. The other schools, they all wanted me to be an offensive lineman, so I sort of geared towards the offensive side since that's where I'd spent most of my time.”

Shields’ decision ultimately settled on Nebraska because of a camp he had been to that summer.

Will Shields (number 75) with some of his teammates during his time at University of Nebraska. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Media Relations Office

“We went to this camp at Nebraska and we were learning their offense,” Shields recalled. “At that point, we were trying to get a gauge of how good we were.

“After that camp, they offered five of us scholarships on the spot, so we knew we had something special and unique.”

But even at a young age, Shields’ decision wasn’t simply due to the awe of playing for Tom Osborne, the legendary head coach in Lincoln.

“The academic pieces really geared me more toward Nebraska than anywhere else,” Shields said. “They were light years ahead. They already had the study tables, computers and everything else.

“All the other places I go, it was like, 'So, do you have computers here?' [and the answers were] 'Not yet, we have them, but they're not organized.'”

For a lot of young kids, especially top recruits, the academic side of making a college decision can be seen as an afterthought, but it was important to Shields.

Because of that camp he attended in high school, Shields had learned much of the Nebraska offense and spent his time making sure he had it down before he left for Lincoln.

"We're sitting in meetings,” Shields explained. “Some of the other freshmen are trying to figure out calls and of course, I had the offense already, so I'm making calls and everything else.

“So, I got to play my freshman year.”

“After that camp, they offered five of us scholarships on the spot, so we knew we had something special and unique.”

Always looking forward, Shields knew that playing as a freshman would expedite the time in which he had to earn his college degree.

“They told me I wasn't going to redshirt, so I basically had to make a plan right there to graduate in four years,” Shields said. “If an opportunity came to get to the next level, I wanted to have my degree done, so I don't have something looming over my head.

“We ended up putting that plan together for a four-year education for me to get in and get out.”

Ultimately, Shields helped the Huskers win national rushing titles in three of his four seasons at Nebraska (1989, 1991 and 1992). He won the 1992 Outland Trophy, which is given to the best interior offensive lineman in the country.

From Nebraska to the Chiefs

After a storied career at Nebraska, Shields knew he had a future in football.

It was just a matter of who was going to select him in the 1993 NFL Draft.

“In the fall of 1992, our area scout, regional scout and our national scout all told me, 'Carl, you've got to get up here to Nebraska and see this guy,'” Carl Peterson, former Chiefs president and general manager (1989-08), said. “He was impressive.”

Will Shields at the 1993 NFL Draft

VIEW WILL'S SCOUTING REPORT

Coming from a military background, Shields prided himself on being accountable to his teammates and leading by example, something that legendary Nebraska coach Tom Osborne (1973-97) praised about his former offensive lineman.

“Will was not a real loud or noisy guy,” Osborne said. “He was the kind of a guy who led by example, fairly quiet.”

The Nebraska offense was very run heavy, which meant the offensive linemen in that system needed to be physical and have great balance. Both were traits that Shields had in spades.

“That's what you look for in a lineman—you don't want a guy tipping over all the time,” Milt Tenopir, former Nebraska offensive line coach (1974-2002), said. “Will was one of those type of guys, very seldom you saw him on the ground unless he was cutting somebody.”

After giving up their first-round pick in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers that brought over quarterback Joe Montana, and having lost their second-round pick by using it in the supplemental draft the year prior, the Chiefs first pick in the 1993 draft didn’t come until the third round (No. 74 overall).

The buzz around Kansas City was palpable after the trade for Montana. This was a team built to win and despite giving up valuable draft picks, had landed one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

With their first pick in the 1993 draft, the Chiefs selected Shields, who was surprisingly still available.

“His rating and draft grade was much higher than a third round pick,” Peterson said. “So I was ecstatic about it and it didn't take very long to make that decision.”

For Shields, who had just won the Outland Trophy establishing him as the best interior offensive lineman in the country, the fact that he fell to the third round meant there were people who questioned whether or not his game would translate to the NFL.

He was the 11th offensive lineman drafted that year.

“Immediately after the draft, one of the local Kansas City scribes went to our offensive line coach, Alex Gibbs, and said, 'What do you think about the Chiefs taking with their first pick an offensive linemen?'” Peterson recalled.

“Alex's response was, 'Well, he's from the University of Nebraska—I know he can run block. But because he's from Nebraska, I question whether he can pass block.'

“They ran an I-formation and ran out of the slot, and if they threw the ball, which wasn't often, it was usually play action.”

The technique needed to pass block in the NFL was something Shields was going to have to learn.

“I had never done a true, traditional pass set,” Shields noted. “Everything was turn protection or go attack the guy and make him think it's a run, then settle down. “So I had to learn those different techniques.”

It didn’t take long for Shields to be put in a position of where he was going to have to use those new techniques.

Early in the first game of his career, Shields was thrust into the starting lineup because of a knee injury to starting left guard Dave Szott.

“That '93 season, they opened in Tampa,” former KCChiefs.com writer Bob Gretz recalled. “This was Joe Montana's first game and the world was just wonderful.”

“Coach Gibbs would probably even tell you that he wasn't that comfortable when they first put [Shields] in, but Marty (Schottenheimer) said, 'Hey, we're getting this guy in,'”

- Tim Grunhard, Chiefs Center 1900-2000

With all of the pressure that came with the expectations after trading for Montana, the offensive line was now put in a position where a third-round rookie pick was tasked with protecting Montana in his first NFL game.

“Coach Gibbs would probably even tell you that he wasn't that comfortable when they first put [Shields] in, but Marty (Schottenheimer) said, 'Hey, we're getting this guy in,'” former Chiefs center Tim Grunhard (1990-'00) said.

“Alex Gibbs sent him onto the field saying, 'Don’t get the quarterback killed,’” Gretz recalled.

With all of the pressure and circumstance in this situation, Grunhard remembers Shields was cool, calm and collected, traits that would eventually come to define the Hall of Famer.

“When he came in, we looked at him and said, 'Hey kid, it's show time,'” Grunhard recalled. “And he was just like how Will Shields was. He was very confident. He just did him and went about his business.

“A lot of times younger guys will come in and in practice they look good, but the games are so big for them that things can't slow down.

“We knew right away that the game wasn't too big for Will Shields.”

An Offensive Line Dynasty

The game was never too big for Shields and he was never too big for the game. Throughout his 14-year career, Shields was a part of some of the best offensive lines in NFL history. The chart below illustrates the number of games he played with different teammates.

Left Tackles

Left Guards

Centers

Right Tackles

Quarterbacks

Willie Roaf (58)

Dave Szott (92)

Tim Grunhard (125)

Victory Riley (52)

Trent Green (88)

John Alt (55)

Brian Waters (85)

Casey Wiegmann (95)

Ricky Siglar (50)

Elvis Grbac (47)

Jeff Criswell (35)

Jeff Blackshear (15)

Donald Willis (2)

John Tait (32)

Steve Bono (31)

John Tait (35)

Glenn Parker (12)

Brian Waters (1)

John Welbourne (23)

Joe Montana (24)

Jordan Black (20)

Jef Smith (5)

 

Glenn Parker (16)

Rich Gannon (19)

Glenn Parker (13)

Marcus Spears (5)

 

Marcus Spears (11)

Daman Huard (8)

Derrick Graham (3)

Donald Willis (4)

 

Derrick Graham (10)

Dave Krieg (5)

Marcus Spears (2)

Chris Bober (2)

 

Jordan Black (9)

Warren Moon (1)

Kyle Turley (2)

Danny Villa (2)

 

Kevin Sampson (7)

Will Shields (1)*

Reggie McElroy (1)

 

Kyle Turley (5)

 

 

 

Chris Bober (4)

 

 

 

Jeff Criswell (4)

 

 

 

Trezelle Jenkins (1)

* Shields started at LT & Donald Willis started at RT vs. Carolina (12/10/00)


“I think part of our success was our high standard for one another,” former Chiefs guard Dave Szott ('90-'00) said. “We held each other at a very high standard and a high level of expectations. And we didn't want to let each other down.”

Early in his career with coach Marty Schottenheimer, Shields played 37 career games with John Alt at left tackle, Dave Szott at left guard, Tim Grunhard at center and Ricky Siglar at right tackle. It was the most frequent four-man combination along the offensive line of Shields’ career.

That interior line triumvirate is widely regarded as one of the finest in the history of the Chiefs franchise. For eight seasons, Shields was the junior member of the offensive line “The Firm” which was referred to in the Arrowhead locker room as the single entity of Szott, Grunhard and Shields.

Will Shields (68), Tim Grunhard (61), Dave Szott (79) and John Alt (76)

Shields started 125 games in his career next to Grunhard, which is the highest total of any of his teammates.

“We were able to communicate with just nods and grunts,” Grunhard said. “We watched film together, we did everything together.”

All of this time spent together helped pave the way for running backs like Marcus Allen, Greg Hill and Kimble Anders, who helped lead a Chiefs rushing attack that led the NFL with 2,222 yards in 1995, marking the first time in franchise history the Chiefs had led in the NFL in that category.

During his five years with the Chiefs (1993-97), Allen ran for 3,698 yards and 44 touchdowns.

“The next generation with Dick Vermeil (2001-05) was more about the perimeter runs, getting outside,” 810 Sports Radio in Kansas City’s Soren Petro said. “It was one of the best offenses this league has ever seen.”

During his career, Shields helped pave the way for the four best individual single-season rushing performances in franchise history.

Between 2001 and 2004, running back Priest Holmes ran for 5,482 yards and 70 touchdowns.

The Chiefs led the NFL in offense in 2004 and 2005 behind arguably the best offensive line in NFL history with left tackle Willie Roaf, left guard Brian Waters, center Casey Wiegmann and Shields.

John Welbourn (76), Will Shields (68), Casey Wiegman (62), Brian Waters (54), and Willie Roaf (77)

“Offensive linemen very seldom get the credit for an explosive offense,” Vermeil said. “It normally goes to the offensive coordinator or the head coach. But you can't do all the things we did with our offense over the five years without a Will Shields. He made it easy. He had no limitation.

“I’ve never been around a guard that could do so many things so well.”

Shields had seamlessly transitioned from the downhill running attack of Schottenheimer and company to the outside, perimeter runs of Vermeil.

“Typically you break down O-linemen as ‘Do they have the ability to run in space and block in space?’” Szott explained. “Can they get to the second level? Are they good man blockers, zone blockers? Will could do all those things.”

The combination of strength, technique and quickness for Shields set him apart throughout his career.

“His feet were tremendous,” Petro said. “His ability to pull and to trap and to do it quickly. You know blocking is about strength, but it's also about getting better leverage, getting to the spot quicker.”

“We'd go out on the field and we'd go, 'OK, we're going to score this play,' and go out and do it. Every time you touched the field you knew there was an opportunity for you to put the ball in the end zone and that was fun.”

The confidence of that offense, led by the skill players of quarterback Trent Green, tight end Tony Gonzalez, receiver Eddie Kennison and Holmes helped the Chiefs finished the 2002-04 seasons with the highest total of points scored in a season in franchise history.

“We'd go out on the field and we'd go, ‘OK, we're going to score this play,'” Shields said, “and go out and do it. Every time you touched the field you knew there was an opportunity for you to put the ball in the end zone and that was fun.”

Green, who behind Shields and company established a new franchise record of 81 consecutive starts for a quarterback (2001-06), said the entire team fed off that confidence.

“As a quarterback, you had tremendous confidence in the huddle when you're calling a play and you know it's going to work,” Green said, “even if the defense has the perfect defense to stop it.”

That was never more evident than on a nationally televised game against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football back in 2004, when Shields made his presence known to another future Hall of Famer.

On this particular night, linebacker Ray Lewis, who had been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in three of the previous four seasons, got all he could handle from Shields.

“We'd gone 0-3 to start out and we come in and we just decide that we're going to pound the ball,” Vermeil recalled of that game. “I can remember Ray Lewis saying, 'Coach, they got two guys on me. They got two guys on me.’

“We only had one guy on him.”

Shields was having his way with a legendary linebacker, who was actually mic’d up for that game and was seen on camera complaining to his assistant coaches and teammates on the sideline.

“They would show snap after snap where [Lewis] was being manhandled one on one and Shields was that guy a lot of the time,” Petro said. “There was this vaunted Ravens defense and the Chiefs were just running right over them.

“And I remember Will getting into it with Lewis because he was really frustrated on how well he was being blocked. He was being handled by Will Shields that day.”

Trent Green Shares Thoughts on Will Shields

The trust between a quarterback and his offensive line is vital to the success of the offense as a whole. For the Chiefs during the Trent Green era, that success was defined by the copious amount of yards and points they would consistently hang on their opponents.

Green was brought to the Chiefs in a trade with the St. Louis Rams for the No. 12 pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

Shields would go on to play more games with Green (88) at quarterback than any other in his career.

Green remembers coming to Kansas City and being impressed right off the bat by the demeanor and work ethic of an already dominant NFL player in Shields.

Larry Johnson (27), Tony Gonzalez (88), Will Shields (68), Trent Green (10), and Brian Waters (54)

“He had already been to six Pro Bowls by the time I got here,” Green explained. “Then he went to all six when I was with him. He was already well established as a dominant player in the league, but his work ethic always stood out.

“You understand why he had such a high level of play for such a consistent period of time just because of the amount of work that he put in.”

Green said that Shields was never much of a talker, but always let his actions speak for themselves.

“He didn't say a whole lot,” Green explained. “But in terms of taking care of himself and in terms of walk-throughs, meetings, practices. I mean, you knew what you were getting every day. He was very methodical about his approach. He had a routine with strength training and with his conditioning. It was just Mr. Consistency.

“You never had to worry, ‘OK is Will going to be there? Is Will going to be ready?’ or ‘Is Will going to be prepared?’ I mean you knew that's just what he did. He's like this is my job, and he showed up for his job every day and he worked his tail off. He was the best.”

Besides what he was able to accomplish on the field, Green recalled that Shields was benevolent with his time, always making some to try and help develop players who were looking for advice.

“He had already been to six Pro Bowls by the time I got here. Then he went to all six when I was with him. He was already well established as a dominant player in the league, but his work ethic always stood out.”

- Trent Green, Chiefs Quarterback 2001-2006

“It always impressed me that we'd be in training camp and it was back in the old training camps when you had two-a-days and those long days,” Green recalled. “It would be a long, long, tiring day and Will was always putting in extra time with the young guys, whether it be before practice or after practice.

“You'd see him working individually with someone or working collectively with a group of young guys about footwork, about technique. He wasn't self-absorbed when it came to his profession; he was always willing to share that.”

In three of their six years together (2002-04), Shields and Green helped lead a Chiefs offense that scored more than 465 points in each of those seasons.

Those happen to be the three highest-scoring seasons in Chiefs franchise history.

But in seven years and with hundreds of top plays to recall, Green mentioned one particular game against the Raiders in which the offensive line, Shields included, demonstrated the kind of dominance that helped illustrate why this offensive line is one of the best in NFL history.

It was a fourth-down play in the red zone.

“They were talking trash,” Green recalled of the Raiders. “We broke the huddle and they're like, ‘Hey it's coming over here,’ and our offensive line was like, ‘Yeah, you're damn right it's going there and you're not going to stop us!’

“So I was like, ‘Do I call a timeout? You just told them where the play was going. What are we going to do?’

“We ran the play. I said ‘Well, you guys are going to have to back it up.’ And they did. We got the first down.”

Former Equipment Manager Mike Davidson Shares Thoughts on Shields

When former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer came to Kansas City from Cleveland in 1989, one of the guys who came with him was Mike Davidson.

Davidson had been the assistant equipment manager in Cleveland and Schottenheimer gave him an opportunity to run the show in Kansas City.

This was a position Davidson would go on to hold with the Chiefs for 22 years and through five different head coaches before retiring in 2011.

When Davidson was asked about this particular third-round pick back in 1993, he had nothing but positive things to say about Shields.

“He’s a good man,” Davidson said. “I would see Will every day for six months and he was the same person from day one of when he first arrived in Kansas City to how he is now. That’s really hard to do with professional athletes. You know we all change but Will was always that same, consistent person.”

The words consistent, humble and accountable are the ones most often used to describe Shields, and Davidson explained one way in which that was demonstrated by Shields every day.

“One of the first things he would do when he arrived was take his shoulder pads, practice jersey, helmet, braces and his gloves, and he would put it all together and put it right down in front of his locker,” Davidson explained. “Even though practice wasn’t going to be for another five or six hours, Will would come in and make sure he had everything ready to go.

“He was always prepared.”

Besides being ready for practice hours before his teammates would even arrive at the complex, Davidson said that even during the biggest games and the most stressful times, Shields was the same guy.

“He was never nervous,” Davidson said. “I never saw him nervous. I never saw him getting worked up or too excited. It was that consistency; he was that same person all the time.”

But it’s the way in which Shields treated those when nobody was watching that really stood out to Davidson, who spent as much time around Shields as anyone during their 14 years together with the Chiefs.

“One of the first things he would do when he arrived was take his shoulder pads, practice jersey, helmet, braces and his gloves, and he would put it all together and put it right down in front of his locker. Even though practice wasn’t going to be for another five or six hours, Will would come in and make sure he had everything ready to go. He was always prepared.”

- Mike Davidson, Chiefs Equipment Manager 1989-2010

“He just was the perfect professional—the way he treated people, the way he understood the whole business, all the people doing their jobs there,” Davidson explained. “He recognized the ball boys that would come and work training camp, the student trainers, custodians or the people on the road in the visiting clubhouse.

“He respected people and he appreciated everyone’s efforts. And he did it in a quiet way. It’s just the way he’d do things and how he carried himself.”

As if the consistency of how he treated people and how he prepared for practice wasn’t enough to explain how Shields carried himself through a 14-year Hall of Fame career, Davidson said even the equipment he used had a consistent problem.

“He had this knack of bending the face mask in games,” Davidson explained. “It was always the same bar, the same location, the top middle bar. Now, it wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t play with it. If we didn’t have to change it in the second half, then we’d change it on Monday mornings.

“But he would always get that little bend in the same place in his face mask.”

Simply put, Davidson couldn’t say enough about not only Shields the player, but also the man he was when he wasn’t wearing the pads.

“He is just probably one of the most upstanding human beings that I’ve ever met anywhere and anytime,” Davidson said of Shields. “I’m not just talking about sports, I’m just talking about someone that was just genuine. I mean his family, his wife and his children, all of them.

“I love the man and I really respect the way he carries himself and what he stands for. It was actually a pleasure and an honor to work with him.”

The Ultimate Chief

Shields started 223 consecutive games for the Chiefs offensive line between 1993 and 2006.

It’s remarkable to even think about playing for 14 years in the trenches, battling with other gladiators in such a physical game at such a physically demanding position.

But Shields took it even a step further according to a few of those who knew him best.

“I don't remember Will Shields ever missing a practice, let alone a game in five years,” former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil recalled. “I don't think he ever did. To play as many games as he played without missing, he had to play not feeling real well from time to time.”

“He didn't want to let anybody down,” Carl Peterson said. “As long as he could physically get up for each game, he could play.”

“Will did that year in and year out with injuries—things no one ever knew about,” Dave Szott said. “He didn't want anybody to know. It shows about his toughness.”

“He was unusually tough,” the “Voice of the Chiefs,” Mitch Holthus, said. “He had back problems. In 2001, I had major back surgery that April, and that year at training camp—Will didn't have surgery but he was having some serious back problems as I recall.

“I would go in early in the morning to try to do my rehab in River Falls and he was always there. We'd chuckle because he and I were doing kind of the same things.” Still, he never missed a game.

“He was a phenomenal athlete—smart, dirty tough, loved the game, all those things. I had a chance to sit with him when I was coaching one of the Pro Bowls and we took a couple bus rides together. He was just a soft-spoken guy but he played with great energy.”

- Andy Reid, Chiefs Head Coach

“Now that says a lot, that's courage,” 810 Sports Radio in Kansas City’s Soren Petro said. “When you hurt and you go anyway, you're giving it up for your teammates, and that's what made Will Shields one of the most complete players this league has ever seen.”

“He was a phenomenal athlete—smart, dirty tough, loved the game, all those things,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I had a chance to sit with him when I was coaching one of the Pro Bowls and we took a couple bus rides together. He was just a soft-spoken guy but he played with great energy. Not the biggest guy—that makes it even more special as you look at it. He played big; he played physical. He loved to play.”

“I came into the league in 1969 so I've seen a lot of offensive guards,” Vermeil said. “Never have been around a guard that could do so many things so well. Prepared like he prepared to play and how seriously he took his craft, his fundamentals, his preparation for the game, his execution of the game plan, his own self-evaluation.

“I don't think there's any better than Will Shields.”

“At the end of the day, I think he loved the game, he loved being an offensive linemen, part of a unit,” Peterson said. “He liked his teammates, he liked his coaches. I think he liked very much being a Kansas City Chief. Kansas City was the right place for Will Shields and, I know this, Will Shields was the right guy for the Kansas City Chiefs.”

Origins of Shields’ Charitable ways

During his illustrious 14-year career as a member of the Chiefs, Shields’ accomplishments are as impressive as they are diverse.

On the field, the numerous accolades he received and records he broke are revered in Chiefs lore. But what Shields was able to do for the Kansas City community off the field is why he is spoken about with such reverence among those who know him best.

Will Shields (left) with Chiefs owner and founder Lamar Hunt (right). Shields was named the 2003 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, which is the most prestigious accolade that can be bestowed upon an active player. Shields received the honor from Commissioner Paul Tagliabue prior to Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Texas. He became the fourth player in Chiefs history to earn the Man of the Year trophy, joining the illustrious likes of Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees LB Willie Lanier (1972), and QB Len Dawson (1973), as well as the late nine-time Pro Bowler LB Derrick Thomas (1993).

His “Will to Succeed” foundation has helped more than 100,000 individuals since its inception in 1993, and it was the driving force behind his Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which is the most prestigious honor an NFL player can receive, back in 2003.

According to Shields’ former teammate, quarterback Trent Green, it was the Chiefs community relations department that was the driving force behind getting Shields that honor.

It wasn’t something that he was seeking because, in true Shields fashion, he wasn’t doing work in the community for the recognition. He would have been just fine not receiving any notoriety for what he was doing.

It’s an intrinsic motivation to better his community and to be a positive and contributing member of the Kansas City community that motivated Shields.

“Will Shields was as fine of a total complete package as a person and a player that I ever coached,” Vermeil said. “Nobody I’ve ever met in coaching has given more back to the community than him.”

For Shields, the origin of understanding what his platform as an athlete could do for those in his community went back to high school, where he remembered a speech given by former NFL player Hollywood Henderson to his team.

“He gave the story of ‘don’t do all of the things that I have done,’” Shields recalled. “He said ‘I had a good career and I’ve done some great things but I’ve also had some bad times and some down times.’”

As a high school junior who was trying to shape a path for his future, combined with being a top college prospect with Division I football offers, Shields took Henderson’s message to heart.

A few years later at the University of Nebraska, where Shields had committed, he found himself with a platform to make the kind of difference that Henderson made with him.

“[Former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne] sort of put it to light,” Shields explained. “We were just college athletes, but he’d say ‘Hey, you need to go out and do speaking engagements,’ and I’d say ‘Coach, I’m just an offensive lineman from Lawton, Oklahoma.’

“And then he’d go, ‘but you’re a Husker.’

“Once you’re a Husker it makes a difference, especially being in Nebraska,” Shields explained. “You can go and talk to these kids and tell them where you’ve been, where you’re from and what you’re going to do.”

“Some of these kids dream of being at that point.”

Shields was the Chiefs 2005 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, which annually honors one player from each team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Named in honor of longtime Colts athletic trainer Ed Block, recipients of the award are selected by a vote of their teammates. In 14 years of NFL service with the Chiefs, Shields never missed a single game, amassing an incredible streak of 224 consecutive games played with 223 straight starts. That starting streak established a franchise record and still ranks as the third longest streak in the league since the AFL-NFL merger.

Shields continued.

“We went out and did a speech and I was going, ‘Wow, these kids really do relate to where I was and what I wanted to do.’ I’m giving them a little knowledge before they get there so they can make better decisions as they go on.”

Just like that, Shields had found himself in the shoes Henderson had worn just a few years earlier.

Besides the public speaking engagements, Shields began to help those around him in other ways at Nebraska as well.

“Will was one of our first mentors in the TeamMates Mentoring Program here at Nebraska,” Osborne said.

This program, which was founded in 1991 by Osborne and his wife, Nancy, had the goal to “provide support and encouragement to school aged youth” and to help “youth graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education.”

According to their website, teammates.org, the program, which began with Shields and 21 of his teammates at Nebraska back in 1991, has been a huge success.

Today, TeamMates includes 130 chapters serving more than 7,000 students in grades 3-12. TeamMates successfully partners with local school districts from the largest urban schools to some of the smallest and most isolated rural schools, via teammates.org.

For Shields, the platform given to him at Nebraska to help others reminded him of where he came from and opened his eyes to what was possible.

“It all goes back to where you grew up,” Shields said. “Seeing all of the different people who struggled and needed help, and now being able to be in that position, that was something that was unique to me.”

Shields was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, which was the same year he started his “Will to Succeed” Foundation.

“What was really unique is that my wife and I started it by ourselves with just our lawyer,” Shields recalled. “At that time, there were 17 different athletes doing things in the [Kansas City] community, so we had to do as much as we could to do our part to be a part of the community.

Shields and his wife Senia were named the Philanthropists of the Year by the Kansas City Council on Philanthropy in 2005. The KC Council on Philanthropy helps non-profit professionals and volunteers make a difference in the community.

Shields was also recognized nationally as the first NFL recipient of the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance Award in 1999. He received the Henry P. Iba Citizen-Athlete Award in 2005, joining previous winners of the Iba Citizen-Athlete Award such as Ozzie Smith and Karl Malone.

“It ended up getting to the point where we ended up with a board of like 20 people who were working on different events,” he explained. “We saw it grow and grow and grow.”

Despite the success of the foundation and the credit Shields’ received with the Man of the Year award, he doesn’t feel like he should be singled out.

“For me, it’s not my award,” Shields explained. “It’s for everyone that’s ever worked with the Will to Succeed Foundation. It’s their award, I just so happen to be the one who can put it in my house.”

According to the foundation’s website, “WilltoSucceed.org,” the organization currently sponsors over a dozen programs and initiatives where the organization, as well as its founders, are "hands-on" participants in all activities, as well as contributing financial support.

"If there's one kid who we can impact, then our efforts are all worthwhile,” Shields states on the website. “If one child makes better life choices and his or her life turns out for the better, then we have succeeded."

One of the kids Will and his wife, Senia, definitely had an impact on throughout the last few years is former Kentucky basketball player and the Sacramento Kings first-round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Willie Cauley-Stein.

Cauley-Stein grew up in Spearville, Kansas, and it was through an AAU basketball connection that he befriended Shavon Shields, one of Will and Senia’s two sons.

Due to academic reasons, Cauley-Stein and the Shields family decided that it would be best for him to move from his grandparents’ home in Spearville to Olathe, and live with their family.

Shields received the inaugural “Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian of the Year Award” presented by Pro Football Weekly in ’99 which recognizes “an NFL player whose contributions to the community and charitable causes are both outstanding and hands-on.” Other winners of the Humanitarian Award include Derrick Brooks (Tampa Bay), Tony Richardson (Kansas City) and Roy Williams (Dallas).

“Will and Senia basically treated [Cauley-Stein] as one of their own children,” “Voice of the Chiefs” and friend of the Shields family, Mitch Holthus, explained. “That meant tough love, but it gave him the chance to succeed. To Willie's credit, he grew up a lot at Kentucky. I know as an athlete, but I also think as a person.

“But now he gets the chance to be in the NBA as a first-round draft pick and, in my opinion, none of that would have happened without Will and Senia Shields.”

While Pro Bowls, All-Pro teams and his numerous franchise records can be quantified through time, the impact of what Shields and his family have done for the Kansas City community can’t be.

Shields also has 68's Inside Sports, a training facility in Kansas City that welcomes everyone from NFL players and college athletes training for the Scouting Combine to regular people just trying to get a little healthier.

“During the 2011 lockout, that's where most of the Chiefs players were working out,” Holthus said. “Jon McGraw, Andy Studebaker, there were a lot of guys using that facility.”

Holthus, who can also be found working out at the facility, loves the makeup of the place.

“I love the cultural diversity there; you have all kinds,” Holthus said. “Will wants it to be that way.”

The decision to draft Shields back in 1993 was one that was obviously made for what he could do for the team on the field, but his lasting legacy in Kansas City is what he’s done away from it.

The ripple effect can be felt across thousands of families who have benefitted from his foundation and all of his other ventures.

“The easy part was staying,” Shields said of staying in Kansas City after his retirement. “For me, that was really important. I’ve got kids and they grew up here. We’re basically rooted here. It’s got a strong hold on our heart.”

An Incredible Night Concluded with Family and Friends

He showed class, humility and respect for those who helped him along the way during his Hall of Fame induction speech, and it’s exactly what you would have expected from Will Shields.

Many of his former teammates, starting from all the way back to when he was a kid all the way up through the end of his NFL career, made their way to Canton, Ohio to honor and celebrate with him on Saturday night.

After the enshrinement ceremony, which included speeches from all eight of the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, concluded, Shields celebrated with friends and family well into the night.

But before the party began, Kansas City Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt addressed those in attendance.

"One of the great things about being associated with the National Football League is the people you get to know,” Hunt said. “Obviously, all of you know what he accomplished on the football field, and he went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight because of those accomplishments. His durability, his availability, his consistency of excellence, the quality that he played the game with, but that's not what makes Will special.

“You guys know that he was a Walter Payton Man of the Year winner, and that really almost understates his contributions to the Chiefs and the city of Kansas City. You all know how modest he is; he's not going to be the one to tell you about the many great things that he does in the community. But I can tell you definitively that since 1993, when Will Shields came to Kansas City, that Kansas City is a better place to play and a better place to live because of Will Shields.”

It was a special night for Shields and his family, not only because of his induction, but also because so many different areas of his life all converged into one small Ohio town.

"I get to see every piece of our life from when I was little all the way up until today,” he said, “everyone who has been a part of my life in one room, in one building and in one place. It's very rare you can get a chance to be a part of that.

“I've got coaches from high school, college, I've even got the group here that drafted me. So it's a wide array of people. I love all you guys. Every game and every practice, we went to war with one another. You know this is all because of you.

“It makes this moment even more special.”

One of his former teammates in attendance was quarterback Trent Green, who spent six years with Shields (2001-06) in Kansas City.

"It’s an incredible night,” Green said. “It's the ultimate club and Will deserves to be there. It was so cool to see him up there and he did a great job with his speech. He honored his family, he honored his teammates. It’s what you expected from Will.

“The whole night, when you talk about the different members that went in, it was such a great class with some historical people going in.”

Another teammate in attendance was former playmaker—the X-Factor, Dante Hall, who spent seven years with Shields (2001-07).

"It’s really hard to put tonight into words,” Hall said. “We knew it was going to happen, but for it to actually happen and now that it’s here, you really don't have any words for that. All you can do is enjoy the moment, be proud, smile and come celebrate and support him.”

During his speech at the enshrinement ceremony and even when he addressed the crowd at his party, Shields made it very clear where his foundation of support came from throughout those 14 Hall of Fame years in Kansas City.

It was his family—his wife, Senia, and his children Shavon, Solomon and Sanayika.

"You knew the reason why you do what you do,” he said. “That's what makes this such a special night. I know the Pro Football Hall of Fame is all based off of what you've done on the field, but what I did off the field made what I did on the field easier.

“It made football something that was a part of life that we did to make life better.”

Will Shields is finally where he belongs—alongside the best to ever play the game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

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