Hall of Fame to honor Art Shell

Art Shell speaking at Pro Football Hall of Fame (photo by Pro Football Hall of Fame)

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will be honoring former Raiders offensive tackle, Art Shell, once again by recognizing him as an Hometown Hall of Famer in North Charleston South Carolina on April 6. The national program is a partnership with Allstate Insurance which honors the hometown roots of the sport's greatest players with special ceremonies and plaque dedication events in local communities.

Shell will be recognized by representatives of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Allstate Insurance Company and the North Charleston, S.C. community, during a special ceremony at North Charleston High School at which point he will be honored with a plaque which will remain on permanent display.

Along with being part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Art Shell is also part of the South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. But this ceremony has particular meaning for him.

"It means a lot." Shell said in a phone interview for this article. "With the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate insurance company getting together and giving us a chance to go to our roots and where we came from and where we were nourished as football players back in the day. It's a great opportunity to go back home and be among friends, family, and football players I played with and to be honored. I'm looking forward to it and I think it's going to be a wonderful event."

"They're going to give us the plaque and... a commemorative sign which will be displayed in the hometown area so when you arrive you'll see a plaque on the side of the road. That's gonna be exciting because that's gonna be there and give people a chance to see it and understand and recognize that ‘here is the hometown, homegrown young man that came from this area and we're excited about him'. So I'm glad about that."

Shell was selected by the Oakland Raiders out of Maryland State College in the 1968 draft. He went on to an eight-time Pro Bowl career while helping the Raiders to win Super Bowl XI and Super Bowl XV. During his 15-year career as a dominant offensive lineman for the Raiders, Shell played in 207 regular-season games and 23 post-season games. Shell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. He would also become the NFL's first ever African American head coach.

The special ceremony will be held at 2:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 6, at North Charleston High School. Eugene Graves, Shell's former high school coach, will present him with his historic plaque.

Shell credits coaches like Graves for shaping him and inspiring him to eventually get into coaching.

"Mr Graves, he was the assistant football coach because last month we buried the head coach." Shell explained. "But Mr Graves was an assistant coach and he was the basketball coach. I played four years for him on the basketball team. So when I was in high school, these guys impressed me so much, that's one of the reasons I wanted to be a coach. I wanted to go to college, get a degree and become a coach because I was so impressed by what they did and how they nurtured us and how they talked to us about the importance of getting your education and the importance of giving back to students."

The "Hometown Hall of Famer" program is in its second year of existence so Shell is among the first recipients of the award. As he explains it, the program is a way for the Hall of Fame to "put this thing on the road". In essence, to bring the honor of the Hall of Fame from Canton to the communities which take pride in their hometown heroes.

"It's home," said Shell. "Last year they put in about 50 Pro Football Hall of Famers in their hometown. You had guys like Walter Payton, Joe Namath, Barry Sanders and another one, Howie Long. They had this hometown plaque put in their hometowns. It's just great to honor the community that you were involved in and that raised you."

Among other former Raiders to receive the Hometown Hall of Famer ceremony, Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen was also honored last month.

Follow me on Twitter @LeviDamien or befriend me on facebook.

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