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Former Chiefs Lineman Will Shields Up For Fourth Time As Hall Finalist

Pro Football Hall of Fame

After striking out three times in a bid to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, this may be the year that former Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Will Shields gets in.

He’ll find out this weekend when the announcement is made in Arizona where the Super Bowl is taking place. There’s hope that Shields’ involvement with one of the NFL’s hottest issues off the field may put him over the top.

During a 14-year Kansas City Chiefs career that ended in 2006, you rarely heard the name Will Shields called out at Arrowhead Stadium — except for during the pre-game introductions. But even then he typically mixed in as a guard without extra fanfare among the rest of his linemates.

But there was something different about Shields than the rest of the guys. It wasn’t just his ironman track record with the Chiefs — 224 games played without being sidelined. Shields made some noise, though unexpectedly from someone as quiet as he is off the field.

Since the early stage of his career, Shields took on the issue of domestic violence.

“This is not something he got involved with just recently because of the news,” said Janee Hanzlik, president and CEO of Safehome, a Kansas City shelter for domestic violence victims. “He stands to me as an example of what a football player can do, who takes the stand that healthy relationships are paramount in our society.”

“Plain and simple. I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m safe and without Will and the foundation there’s no way I could have ever done that," says Summer (who prefers to withhold her last name), a personal trainer and a victim of domestic violence.

Summer added that she appreciates the delicate manner in which Shields handled her domestic violence situation.

“A lot of people try to tell you how to do it, what to do and ‘Oh, you should just leave him. If you do this, then everything will be better.’ Honestly that’s a little irritating,” she said. “But Will was far more of the opinion that he would just be there to facilitate and help if needed. But he never prodded. He never pushed. He was just there.”

While the Will to Succeed Foundation continues to work with domestic violence victims, there’s one key individual who’ll speak up on his behalf this weekend: Kansas City Star sportswriter Randy Covitz. He’s in charge of making the pitch for Shields before the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

When the competition among the Hall of Fame finalists heats up, Covitz will close his case by talking up Shields, the individual.

“It’s what you did on the field, but when the competition is this close, when you’re really flipping a coin between players, what that does in the locker room. The leadership that provides your young players, how do you measure that?” asked Covitz.

But there’s one problem with that argument. Character’s not part of the criteria for admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Kansas City sportswriter Bob Gretz knows from being on the selection committee for 16 years.

“Under the rules given to us by the Hall of Fame, we’re supposed to consider only what happens between the white lines. Only the play on the field,” said Gretz.

When former Chiefs linebacker, the late Derrick Thomas, made the Pro Football of Fame, Gretz was his presenter. It took four years for Thomas to make the Hall. But Gretz doesn’t believe character ever factored in.

“Derrick did amazing things off the field, but he wasn’t perfect and anybody who knew Derrick knew That,” said Gretz. “He wasn’t perfect, but we’re not voting for the Hall of Perfect Person. We’re not voting for the hall of a nice guy. We’re voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

Shields has a strong case on the field, but played a position that isn’t measured for stats except for longevity.

For 12 straight years, Shields was voted to the Pro Bowl for the NFL’s all-star players. If he’s elected to the Hall, Shields will be enshrined this summer in Canton, Ohio.

If not, he’ll have to wait another year.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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