Art Shell

After several seasons of mediocre results, the Los Angeles Raiders football team, formerly the Oakland Raiders, appeared to have lost its legendary mystique. In an effort to restore its lost pride and regain a winning attitude, Managing General Partner Al Davis reached back to Raider tradition and selected North Charleston native Art Shell to direct the team. Few individuals so thoroughly understood and exemplified the unique perspectives embodied by athletes who had played for the Silver and Black. “Art Shell represents pride and poise,” said Davis. “He’s always had quality, self-esteem and dignity.” Thus Shell, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle for the Raiders, became the first African-American head coach in the National Football League’s history. Son of a paper mill worker, Art Shell was born in 1946 in Charleston, SC. When he was 15 his mother died, and he assumed many of the responsibilities of raising four younger siblings. His football talents helped get him into Maryland State, now the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Arts Education in 1968, as well as a chance to play in the professional ranks. Drafted in the third round, Art Shell punished defensive linemen for 15 years while playing on the Oakland Raiders offensive line. As his playing days drew to a close, Shell volunteered his time and talent to the University of California in order to learn how to coach. When he retired as a player in 1982, he quickly signed as an assistant line coach for his old team. Shell’s intimidating size, athletic skill, and intensity helped earn him the respect of his peers and opponents. Only two players in Raider history suited up for more games. He was selected as a representative to eight Pro Bowl championship squads. In 1989, along with being named head coach of the Raiders, Shell was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His other accomplishments include: a member of the All-American Football Conference selection six straight years from 1973-1978; All-Pro in 1973, 1974, 1977; played in 207 league games, third highest in the history of the Silver and Black; selected to play in eight Pro Bowls, most of any Raider player, during a career which spanned three decades; played in 23 post-season contests, including eight AFL-AFC Championships and Raider victories in Super Bowls XI and XV; credited with near-perfect performance in Raiders’ Super Bowl XI victory over Minnesota, limiting Vikings highly regarded defensive end Jim Marshall to no tackles, sacks or assists during 32-14 win; played in first 156 games before missing five games due to pre-season injury; launched another streak of 51 straight games; and named to NFL All-Monday Night Team. Shell served as head coach for the Raiders until 1994. Three decades of service in the Raider organization are ample testimony to Coach Shell’s work ethic, high standards, and communication skills. In his first two full seasons as head coach, Shell led the Raiders to the playoffs, winning the American Football Conference Western Division Championship in 1990. Winning is all about attitude,” Coach Shell has said. On his desk he has a plaque that reads, “To achieve all that is possible, we must attempt the impossible. To be as much as we can be we must dream of being more.”