State Your Case: Will Shields

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

Junior Seau is not the most qualified candidate on the Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 preliminary list. Former Kansas City guard Will Shields is.

One difference: Seau is in his first year of eligibility. Shields is in his fourth. Both belong in the Hall, and both will make it. But let's cut to the chase here, people: It's way past time for Shields. Put him in, and put him in now.

Look, I understand he played an unglamorous position and that only nine modern-era candidates who were guards their entire careers are in the Hall. But neither is a reason to keep Will Shields waiting. The guy isn't just qualified. He's overqualified, and the envelope, please.

Like Seau, he was a 12-time Pro Bowl choice. Unlike Seau, he was not named to eight All-Pro teams. He was named to seven. Unlike Seau, he didn't play 20 seasons. He played 14, meaning ... yep, meaning he spent almost every February of his entire career in Honolulu, and this just in: He played in all 12 Pro Bowls. Unlike Seau, he didn't miss parts of 12 seasons, either. Beginning with a Sept. 12, 1993 game vs. Houston, he never left the lineup -- making a team-record 231 straight starts, including the playoffs.

He blocked for 1,000-yard rushers in five seasons. He blocked for 4,000-yard passers in four. He was part of an offense that routinely ranked at or near the top of the league. And he's been a Hall of Fame finalist the past three years.

So what's keeping him out? Good question. I wish I knew.

As one of the 46 members of the Hall of Fame board of selectors, I was there the past three years when Shields' name made the cut from 15 to 10. Each time, I thought he was a layup for induction. And each time I was wrong. That doesn't mean I have a problem with the guys who made it. I don't. They deserve to be in. But so does Will Shields.

When Andre Reed was elected last February, people talked about how it was good to clear the queue of deserving players. So let's continue that trend in 2015 with Will Shields. Because nobody is more deserving.

"Maybe it's the position he plays," one voter told me. "Or maybe it's just his name. If he had some crazy nickname you'd remember him. But there's not much you remember about Will Shields."

Yes, there is. He was one of the premier guards of his era -- an all-decade choice who, along with Hall-of-Fame tackle Willie Roaf, was the lynchpin of an offensive line that was the standard against which others were measured. And his name? Puh-leeze. It's not as if Randall McDaniel or Larry Allen had to be known as "Bonecrusher" to get attention. Yet they're in the Hall, and they should be.

So let's end the charade. Last February, the Hall's board of selectors corrected an oversight by finally ... and mercifully ... ending Ray Guy's wait. He had to sit nearly three decades before his name was called. Let's not make the same mistake with Will Shields.

"It's a great honor to be on that list," Shields told last year. "Me not getting in doesn't tarnish anything that's been done over the last 14 years of my career. It's still a positive thing. It's okay."

Actually, it's not. Will Shields belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he belongs there now.

Will Shields

(Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)