Editor’s note: This is the second article in our Pro Football Hall of Fame Series by staff writer Josh Svetz. Svetz will be covering the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio on Saturday night.
By Josh Svetz
When people look back at Will Shields’ legacy, they will remember the huge blocks he gave guys like Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson and Marcus Allen, the countless Pro Bowl and All Pro selections he received and the overall consistency he showed as one of the best offensive linemen of his generation.
But Shields’ legacy will also be his standing as one of the best men the NFL has ever seen.
Shields’ contributions on the field, as great as they are, don’t even compare to what he’s done off the field.
A former Walter Payton Man of The Year Award winner, Shields has been involved with charity way before he even had legitimate financial stability.
“After going through training camp (with the Chiefs), getting to a point where I felt a little more comfortable about it (creating a charity), I wanted to sort of make a statement that I was here to stay,” said Shields. “I’m one of those guys that had a chip on his shoulder, because I was a third round pick (despite) winning the Outland (top offensive lineman in college football award) and other (awards).”
Shields started his charity, the Will to Succeed Foundation, back in 1993. Now, being a third round pick in 1993 did not guarantee you financial stability. Shields could have easily flamed out in the NFL which would have made the decision to put funds into a charity a poor move. But, due to the chip on his shoulder, his confidence in his abilities and his overall good nature, Shields gave back to the community immediately, and hasn’t stopped since.
Shields has only expanded in his charitable efforts, as documented by Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star.
“(Shields) built a computer lab at The Children’s Place, gave $200,000 to Good Samaritan Boys Ranch, gave kitchen equipment to the Niles Home for Children, helped the burn unit at the University of Kansas Hospital, annually takes battered women to spas around the city to pamper them, provides backpacks stuffed with school supplies to kids and set up transportation for kids in the inner-city to get and keep jobs,” Mellinger wrote.
Shields received great influence from his superiors, which likely made the bold decision seemingly easy.
“The (Kansas City) Chiefs had at least seventeen guys at the time giving back to the community. They were all veteran players, all guys that solidified themselves as being the standard for what everything else was set for,” said Shields.
“I wanted to take my place and say ‘hey, I want to be like those guys and set roots in the ground, and prove that I wanted to be a part of it.
“You could say it was a gamble, but it was one of those things (risks) I was willing to take to make a statement and show the Kansas City Chiefs that I would stay there and be the best Chief I could.”
The Chiefs couldn’t have been happier. Not only did they get one of the best offensive guards in NFL history, but they got one of the best men off the field in NFL history.
Today, the charity Shields started in 1993 has raised over four million dollars and has done countless other things to help the community. He has also helped students get to college, paying for their tuition in a move that is so under reported that the actual names of the children receiving those donations can’t be found, but countless testimonies by kids have given light to some of the great works his foundation has done.
Shields is a rare breed. We rarely see a young NFL player give back early, let alone a rookie who wasn’t even a first round pick. He deserves every accolade he receives when he steps into Canton, Ohio to be enshrined with the greats.
All the Pro Bowls in the world, can’t compare to what he’s done to give back off the field.