(Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)
Talk of Fame Network
There’s a lot to like about Hall-of-Fame guard Will Shields, but one of the most attractive lines on his resume is one that reads “consecutive games played.” Not only did he never miss a game in 14 seasons in the NFL; he started all but the first of his career – a remarkable streak of 223 regular-season contests, or 231 including the playoffs.
That record is bettered by only four others in NFL history, including career-leader Brett Favre at 297 (321 including the playoffs) and third-place finisher Mick Tingelhoff, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend with Shields.
It couldn’t have been easy, and, as Shields described it on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, it wasn’t. He once fought through a high-ankle sprain, as well as “the usual bumps and bruises.” Nevertheless, he was always there, never sitting down in 14 seasons. And that’s not only a credit to Will Shields; it’s a credit to teammate Tim Grunhard, too, whom Shields credited with an assist for his Ironman streak.
“(An injury) was like, yeah, well, it’s bad but it’s not as bad as it could be … and how much pain do you have … and what can you do?” said Shields. “And I was like: ‘Well, we got to do whatever we’ve got to do to make it this week.
“(But) I sat there one week and (thought): I don’t know if I’m going to make it. And Tim Grunhard goes: ‘Do you know how many consecutive games you have right now?’ And I’m looking at him like, no, I really don’t because I didn’t think about it. I just played week in and week out. And he says, ‘You can’t. You have to play. You have to be part of our lineup this week because you have this, that and the other going on.’ And I was like: I never really thought about it at that point until this week, but now it’s more on the front burner of my mind than the back burner of my mind.”
Shields was a third-round draft pick out of the University of Nebraska, and the wonder is that he lasted that long. The Chiefs had traded away their first-round choice for Joe Montana and sacrificed their second-rounder for a supplemental pick. So when Shields, the Outland Trophy winner, was there at the 74th pick they jumped at the chance to take him – even though then-offensive line coach Alex Gibbs later conceded he had reservations about the choice.
“When I came out,” said Shields, “the knock was that I was a Nebraska lineman, and that’s why I didn’t go in the first two rounds — because (critics said) all we knew how to do was run block; that we weren’t as good at pass protection and different things. Plus, as you know, when you’re 6-2 it makes a little different than being 6-4 or 6-5.
“But that was one of the biggest knocks against us (Nebraska); that we didn’t have what they considered a steady flow of guys who were coming out year in and year out who were dominating at the next level. So having that lineage, building it up there and being able to put in at Kansas City – having guys there who had that same sort of never-die mentality, we’re going to keep playing til the end – just sort of helped feed the fire of what I had already learned years before.”