Watch a HuskerVision video tribute to Will Shields after he addressed the 2007 Nebraska team.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Oklahoma Native, Legendary Husker Recruit Will Shields Clears the Way

By NU Athletic Communications
Randy York's N-sider 

To "Respond to Randy" click on the link below and choose "Randy York's N-Sider" under "Area of Interest" on the new screen. Please include your name and make sure you type in your town/city/state after you share your thoughts on legendary football recruit Will Shields. Your ideas may be published at the bottom of this column.

We know this weekend is a unique tribute to the Nebraska-Oklahoma football rivalry, but please, even if you bleed Husker red, stand up right now and give it up for Lawton, Oklahoma, High School.

That's right ... Lawton, Oklahoma.

Yes, the state's third largest city ... the one that sent Will Shields to Lincoln to become an All-American, an Outland Trophy winner, an All-Pro, the NFL Man of the Year and one of the most motivated human beings this side of Mike Minter, another ex-Husker from Lawton.

Lawton, you see, helped Shields learn about and understand the power of Hanta Yo, a Lakota Sioux Indian term that means "Clear the Way".

"That was the mantra I lived by playing high school football in Lawton, and the word I still try to live by today," Shields said, explaining how his high school coaches preached it almost every day, so players would focus their energy on everything positive.

Fortunately, Hanta Yo - an infinite source of creative potential - led Shields to Nebraska, where he honed that almost mystical power and pushed himself beyond almost every challenge imaginable.

Wisdom, Trust, Inner Peace and Illumination

Even today, at 38, long after the accolades have faded, Will Shields, who has never enjoyed the spotlight anyway, is a living testimonial to the Native American medicine wheel that symbolizes wisdom, trust, inner peace and illumination.

Why? Because he was wise enough to put academics and life skills on the same plateau as athletics, and he was smart enough to put his trust in Nebraska. Plus, he continues to seek inner peace and illumination through the Will to Succeed Foundation that he co-founded with his wife, Senia.

Launched when he was an all-pro fixture in the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive line, the foundation is organized to guide, inspire and improve the lives of abused and neglected women and children.

Who knows? Hanta Yo just may have been the power that allowed Shields to become the second offensive lineman in modern-day Nebraska football history to play as a true freshman. By his sophomore season, he was doing what only Dave Rimington had done before him - earning first-team all-conference honors while "clearing the way" for the Huskers to lead the Big Eight in scoring, rushing and total offense.

Shields started the last 36 games of his Nebraska career, and trivia buffs find it interesting that he carried the ball on the final Fumblerooski play in Husker history - a 16-yard gain against Colorado in 1992. A three-time All-Big Eight player, he made the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame a year after he graduated.

No wonder the Kansas City Chiefs latched on to Shields. The somewhat unheralded third-round draft choice became the cornerstone of their offensive line for 15 seasons. He played in a franchise-record 224 consecutive regular-season games at right guard and made a franchise-record 12 consecutive Pro Bowls.

Considering all of that, perhaps it's appropriate that for every Husker fan inclined to stand up and give Shields a sincere Hanta Yo, every Chiefs' fan should stand and offer at least two or three.

Successful Businesses and an Important Foundation

This weekend, Shields is joining a sizable group of former Nebraska and Oklahoma major football award winners for a special banquet and game-day ceremonies in Lincoln - a three-hour getaway from Kansas City, where he owns two successful businesses and directs an important foundation.

Not surprisingly, Shields also still contributes to another worthy charitable cause called "I"ve Got Heart" - a program where students write letters to inspire and motivate hospital patients.

Once Shields became a part of that program at Nebraska, he just couldn't give it up, even after retiring from football to run his businesses, serve the community and support a wife and three children.

"The important thing is not only to clear the way for what you want to do, but to clear the way for others who need your help," Shields said.

That principle is inherently built into the foundation of Hanta Yo. "It's not a philosophy. It's a way of life - a  way of working together and getting things done," Shields said, acknowledging that he was never comfortable being named the NFL Man of the Year.

"The people around me were the NFL Men and Women of the Year," he said. "They wrote the programs for the foundation. They did the fund-raising. They were the ones who made it all happen. I was just a catalyst. All I did was clear the way."

True, of course, to the very root of who he is and all he stands for.

Respond to Randy 

To "Respond to Randy" click on the link above and follow the directions at the top of this column.

Will Shields Profile

Name: Will H. Shields III

Age: 38

Residence: Overland Park, Kansas

Family: Wife, Senia; Daughter, Sanayika, 17; Sons Shavon, 15, and Solomon, 12.

Why I chose Nebraska: There were five Division I seniors on my high school football team. I wasn't one of those blue-chip, star-studded guys. I was someone who needed development and knew it. I went to Nebraska's Summer Football Camp my junior year in high school and went to Oklahoma's football camp two weeks later, so I had a good chance to compare programs. Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Tulsa also offered me scholarships, but I was a strong lean to Nebraska from the start. For me, Nebraska had three distinct advantages. First, they had a strong tradition of developing offensive linemen. Second, they had an academic support system that was way beyond anyone else's, and third, OU was getting ready to go on (NCAA) probation, so I wasn't really interested in that kind of transition or environment. The biggest key for me was probably the strong emphasis on academics. I knew I needed rigor and structure and knew that Nebraska had a system in place that would help me grow as a student, an athlete and a man.

Why Nebraska was a good decision: It was everything I thought it would be and more. Nebraska just treats people the way you want to be treated. The minute you get here, you feel that love that people have for you. You feel that atmosphere that champions have, and you embrace everything you know it will take for you to get there yourself. I always felt I had to maximize every little bit of talent I had, athletically and academically. I really didn't have enough time for anything else until later when I became an original mentor of the TeamMates program. That opened my eyes. I still stay in touch with my mentee, who has a full-time job and is doing well. Maybe now I can go back and rekindle some of those relationships I missed when I was too busy before. I met my wife at Nebraska. She was a Rotary exchange student from Denmark and lived for a year in Curtis, Nebraska. Then she came back on a work visa and was a project manager for the Gallup organization. Choosing Nebraska was one of the decisions I've ever made.

What I'm doing now: I own two businesses. One is called 68 Inside Sports Health and Wellness, and the other is called 68 Inside Sports Indoor Training Facility. Together they are a gym/fitness center/health and wellness/sports and recreation training center. One building is 70,000 square feet. The other is 50,000 square feet. We even have our own in-house, state certified chiropractor. We have batting cages, a big indoor football field and a giant weight room. We have more than 2,000 members, and we're a combination of a lot of different things I believe in. At Nebraska, I loved to train and to grow, and I enjoy helping young kids learn how to train and grow. I enjoy watching them find their strengths and then develop them. I would love to add vocal music and the theatrical arts to what we have and maybe even an academic center, so we can teach kids how to study. Nebraska was my model for all-inclusive growth. They go way beyond sports, and that's what I'd like to do here. I love it when kids open their eyes to different things they can do. I also spend a lot of time on my Will to Succeed Foundation.

Most memorable moment as a Husker: There are so many that I couldn't possibly single one out, but I'll never forget Senior Day when Kenny Walker was introduced. The crowd gave him an ovation in sign language . . . the roar of silence. Kenny was an inspirational role model for so many, including me. It's amazing what someone who was deaf from the age of two can accomplish - from becoming an All-American at Nebraska to playing for the Denver Broncos. Even though he couldn't hear, he had special abilities. That was a rare day and a unique experience . . . something that we'll probably never see again.


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