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Will Shields learned how to pass block

Former Chiefs guard Will Shields will be entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2015 this evening. The action starts at 6 p.m.

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[Editor's noteVideo of Will Shields' Hall of Fame speech]

"We weren't necessarily looking for a guard," Carl Peterson says to me on the phone. The former Kansas City Chiefs GM is taking calls these days about his 1993 third-round pick, Will Shields, who is entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

The 1993 Chiefs are a memorable group because of the Joe Montana trade. Weeks before the draft, Peterson had traded away his first-round pick for Montana. The year before the Chiefs had used a second round pick on a defensive lineman out of Florida -- "that didn't work out very well", Peterson says -- named Darren Mickell.

When the Chiefs first pick of the day came rolling around in the third round, Peterson and front office colleagues Lynn Stiles and Terry Bradway were stunned to find Shields still on the board.

"We had Will rated a lot higher than a third-round pick," Peterson said.

So the Chiefs selected the guard out of Nebraska in the third round.

The Chiefs offensive line coach, Alex Gibbs, told the media that day (paraphrased by Peterson), 'Well, I know that he can run block because he played at Nebraska. But I'm not sure he can pass block because he played at Nebraska.'

Nebraska coach Dr. Tom Osborne called Carl Peterson when it hit the papers the next day. "He was hot," Peterson says.

"Carl, what in the H is your offensive line coach talking about? Did he even look at this guy?" Peterson quoted Osborne as saying at the time.

Shields entered training camp with the Chiefs and it became quite obvious that he was not your normal rookie and was looking at a fine NFL career. However, the man who is known for always being available to play did not start his first NFL game. That's because Gibbs -- the one who wondered about Shields and his pass blocking (which Peterson, who calls Gibbs a terrific coach, now laughs about today) -- wanted to keep his guys in the lineup before giving the rookie a shot.

"Candidly, we spent a lot on Joe Montana and we wanted to protect him," Peterson said. "He was in the autumn of his career. We called him the porcelain doll. Don't let anyone touch that porcelain doll."

Shields' former teammate, Tim Grunhard, told me that they knew from that first preseason in 1993 that it wouldn't be long until Will Shields took that starting job. However, Grunhard didn't realize just how quickly that would come when starting guard Dave Szott was injured in the Chiefs first game that season.

Will Shields stepped in for Szott on that day and started every game for the next 14 years.


The list of Shields' accomplishments is incredible.

He was the Outland Trophy winner as college football's best lineman in 1992.

He played in the NFL for 14 years. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in 12 of those years. Ahem, 12 straight Pro Bowls.

Seven times he was elected to the first or second team All-Pro team, ranging from 1997 to 2005.

He started 223 of 224 games, including 223 straight.

He was the 1993 Walter Peyton NFL Man of the Year, one of the most prestigious awards in the NFL.

He was named to the NFL's all-decade team for the 2000s.

Shields blocked for five seasons of 1,000-yard rushers and five seasons of 4,000-yard passers.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishments came off the field. He always seemed to help out in the community. He took in other kids who needed the help. He raised awareness for all kinds of causes. To this day, he continues his work in the community with 68 Inside Sports. I believe that if the Chiefs had to use one player from their past as an example of who they want all their players to become off the field, it would be Shields.

Tim Grunhard says they knew right away that Shields was a special person off the field.

"One of the big cultures of the Kansas City Chiefs during that time starting with Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith and Bill Maas and a lot of those guys were these foundations," Grunhard said. "That was kind of the thing we were doing it for is getting involved in community. That's really why I think the relationship between the Chiefs players and the fans, especially in the 90s, was so close is because there a little more innocence back then. We did it because we really liked being involved in the community and Will Shields bought into that."

"The best third-round pick I've ever made," Peterson said. "There might be some discussion with Jamaal Charles, who was also a third round pick."

Stephen Dunn /Allsport

So what was it about this 6'3, 315-pound guard that made him so special?

The first thing that comes to mind is his durability.

"He played through injuries," Peterson said. "When we had the injuries on the offensive line at left tackle, we'd move Will out there to play tackle and he never missed a beat. A lot of people thought he was too short for tackle but he played it exceedingly well when we asked him to."

The second thing that comes to mind is his athleticism.

When you talk about will Shields, the first thing you have to talk about is freak athlete. For his size and for the position that he played, he was as good of an athlete as anyone. He might've been pound for pound the best athlete on our team. He could run very well. He was agile. He had great coordination. For a big guy he moved very well. As his career went on fundamentally and technique wise he got better and better. The reason he played so early and played so well so early is that he's such a great athlete.

Shields was as comfortable getting out into space on a screen as he was in going pound-for-pound against a defensive tackle. His versatility, his durability and his athletic talent combined with his intelligence is what made him one of the greatest players not only in Chiefs history but in the history of the league.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

It's hard to pick a coming-out moment for an offensive guard, but one night in Baltimore comes to mind. Four years after their first Super Bowl win, the Ravens were still known as one of the NFL's best defenses with Ray Lewis, who will soon be joining Shields in Canton. The Chiefs and their potent offense were coming to town for a Monday Night Football visit to Baltimore.

I could tell that Carl Peterson was beaming through the phone as he told me about the time Will Shields crushed the spirit of one of the best linebackers in NFL history.

"One of Will's greatest games was on Thursday night in Baltimore against the Ravens," Peterson said. "They had mic'd Ray Lewis. He was the guy that night that ABC was featuring.

Will Shields Block on Ray Lewis

Remember when Will Shields CRUSHED Ray Lewis? We do.#Tbt

Posted by The Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, August 6, 2015

"The game begins and we just take the ball and go right down the field and score. Priest Holmes probably had 60 yards on the first series or two. So they focus on Ray Lewis when he goes back to the bench. He's beside himself, he's screaming and yelling, 'Hey guys, there are two or three guys blocking me every play so someone has to be free. What the heck is going on? We can't let them run all over us.'

"Then they do the isolation and there aren't two or three guys on him. It's Will Shields."

Peterson said that during the process of getting Derrick Thomas inducted into the Hall of Fame they learned that it helps a candidate's cause if other Hall of Famers or potential Hall of Famers call the voters to advocate for them.

Ray Lewis made those calls for Will Shields this year. And it worked.

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