For Donnie Shell, it was more than just being considered one of the elite players in college football.
It was being enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame next to former Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson.
"For us, as African-American people, I think that's special he being the winningest coach and the job he's done and the years that he coached," the former South Carolina State and Pittsburgh Steelers star said Friday night.
Robinson, whose career record is 408-165-15, was granted a waiver last year from the three-year waiting period that is usually required of coaches before they can be elected to the hall, the first time that's happened.
Over his 55-year career, he led Grambling State to 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles, nine Black College National Championships and had a streak of 27 consecutive winning seasons from 1960-86.
Robinson said the honor will help him continue the positive influence he tried to exert over his family, players and young people.
"I want my kids to know that in here are some things I would like them to come by and see," he said. "When they see these things, they will try to emulate and imitate me, and they feel they need to do that because that's what I have done."
Robinson's enshrinement even brought Yankees owner George Steinbrenner back to Indiana, where he used to attend military school in nearby Culver. Steinbrenner was scheduled to help honor Robinson during the enshrinement ceremony.
Joining Robinson and Shell as honorees were 23 other former players and coaches.
They include: Ray Beck, Georgia Tech; Randy Duncan, Iowa; Dave Elmendorf, Texas A&M; Charlie Flowers, Mississippi; Ricky Hunley, Arizona; Alex Kroll, Rutgers; Ken MacAfee, Notre Dame; Bob Reifsnyder, Navy; Dave Rimington, Nebraska; Dave Robinson, Penn State; George Rogers, South Carolina; Danny White, Arizona State; coach Wally Butts, Georgia; coach Don James, Kent State and Washington; and coach Bowden Wyatt, Wyoming, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Enshrinees in the divisional class are: Jeff Bentrim, North Dakota State; Kenneth Deent, Southeast Missouri State; Tom Deery, Widener; Shell; Richard Ritchie, Texas A&I; Larry Pugh, Westminster; coach Chuck Klausing, Indiana (Pa.) and Carnegie Mellon; coach Bob Reade, Augustana; and coach Ad Rutschman, Linfield.
Robinson was not among the class of honorees that was announced in January 1997, but joined them for the induction ceremony last December in New York.
Friday night's ceremony was the enshrinement, during which the honorees received their commemorating plaques and their busts were placed in the Hall of Fame.
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