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Life Lessons From Football Hall of Famer

Tom Buehring - 700 Club Producer

Hall of Famer Donnie Shell: “Less of Us and More of Jesus Christ.”

Donnie Shell flashed his mettle as a playmaker for the famed Steel Curtain Defense! Donnie arrived in Pittsburgh in 1974 as an undrafted free agent. The 4-time Super Bowl Champ and 3-time, first-team All-Pro spent his entire 14-year career as a Pittsburgh Steeler, steered there on the advice of his college coach.

Donnie recalls, “I’m gonna sign with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted rookie and went in and talked to Coach Willie Jefferies. He said very empathically, ‘You need to go to Pittsburgh!’ I said, ‘Well why coach?’ 'Well that’s your motive. They love people who are committed, self-motivated, that’s your M-O. You need to sign with Pittsburgh.' Now I’m in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only God can do that!”

As a mentor, advisor, and leader, the distinguished strong safety earned his master's in counseling, as faith transformed his life.

Question: “So a three-decade wait to reach the Hall of Fame. Releasing something, look different to you?”

Donnie Shell: “Yeah, the longer you wait the longer you think you're not going to get in. But it caused me to reflect on my athletic life. I said, ‘Lord, I had a good career, I thank you.’ What He did by that waiting, He changed my attitude. Let your will be done! And then when I let it go and let God do His work in my life, He gave me some things I'd been praying for all those years.”

Question: “How do you come to terms with that?”

Donnie Shell: “Spending time before the Lord and in His Word, reading and meditating on His Word, and walking in obedience to Him and as you put things inside of you and the Holy Spirit's processing it and it causes you to grow and think God thoughts.”

Question: “You had a specialty in laying a person out on the field! Did you ever play with a temperament?”

Donnie Shell: “Look at this face.”(Laughs)   

Question: “Did you have an on/off switch?” 

Donnie Shell: “(Laughs) No. It’s just like a horse. A wild stallion, and yet a good trainer will get that horse and domesticate him and make it and train him. He didn't take his aggressiveness away; He didn't take his strength away; He didn't take none of his power away from that horse. He's just under control of that person who trained him. So that was me! I was under control of the Holy Spirit using my gifts to the maximum.”

Question: “Mel Blount mentored you, a teammate. You came alongside a young Tony Dungy and mentored him. How does that speak to you about the power of investing in people where their reach goes far beyond you may even be able to reach?”

Donnie Shell: “I think it speaks volumes. That's what happened to me in my life. Somebody saw something in me that I didn't see. Like my high school coach, Coach Lefty Johnson; he said, ‘You can be whatever you want to be.’ So when we see something in people, whether they're young or old, we need to encourage them to be all God created them to be.”
Question: “Your work fosters relationships to heal and reconcile. For you, where does that transformation start?”

Donnie Shell: “Ah, it has to start with you – yourself - inside. The scriptures says, ‘If you don't forgive those that trespass against you, then the Father will not forgive you.’ So it starts with you. I guess that's where my counseling degree comes in and you listen to the other person, intently, compassionately, about their concerns.”

Question: “As a counselor, Donnie, do you gravitate to the description of Him as Wonderful Counselor?”

Donnie Shell: “Oh absolutely. That's my source, that's my strength for wisdom and guidance and direction!  And I pray every day, ‘that I may meet someone and I may share Jesus Christ with; or be of encouragement to someone today.’ A man prayed that prayer for me and that's the way I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Question: “What's most important to you in shaping a legacy while you still have the opportunity to define it?”

Donnie Shell: “Be a servant leader, one who's motivated by love and humility but demonstrated by example. We change as we grow in Christ.  We change on the inside out. So, people will see less of us, and more of Jesus Christ. That's the legacy I would like to leave."

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