CANTON Even though it took some Will Shields some time, and several questions from the audience, to explain exactly what he used to do in the NFL ("I was an offensive guard….I blocked people…I played for the Kansas City Chiefs…the Kansas City Chiefs…I got to push people around for a living"), one could not really fault the children gathered for his Stark County Library Hall of Fame Story Time appearance Aug. 3.
After all, there are not an awful lot of Shields’ 1990s-era Chiefs teammates in the Hall of Fame – and perhaps even fewer offensive guards.
For his part, though, Shields set the Chiefs’ record for consecutive starts, beginning with a Sept. 12, 1993, game against the Houston Oilers, and retains the second longest consecutive starting streak in the NFL behind Brett Favre, who was inducted into the Hall in 2016, one year after Shields.
In addition to starting 231 straight games including playoff games, Shields went to every Pro Bowl from 1995 to 2006, setting another Chiefs team record.
As if that was not enough, Shields showed that he could commentate to the classic "The Cat In the Hat" with the best of them.
"Would you let a cat in the house while your mom and dad were away? Especially one with a big ol’ hat like that? Does anybody have a fish? Does it talk to you every now and then?"
Chuckling at Shields’ easy rapport with the children, Library District Literacy Manager Julia Shaheen said the juxtaposition of seeing a successful sports figure in this light is impactful for both children and parents.
"I think (it is important) seeing somebody who plays football and was so important in his field showing that reading is important and fun," Shaheen said.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame and Stark Library offer the Hall of Fame Story Time annually during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival. Aligning with the Hall of Fame’s mission is to "honor the heroes of the game, preserve its history, promote its values and celebrate excellence," Story Time is one of many efforts to encourage children and families to encourage early literacy skills.
James Carman, of Canton, brought his sons, Ethan, 6, and Austin, 3, to the event after he and his wife, Julie, learned about it through the Library’s summer reading program, which the boys participated in.
"It was fun and we like to do anything to show support for the Library," Carman said.
Tristen Barnes, 11, of Canton, came with his grandmother, Susan Rowlance.
"It was exciting to get to see a real NFL football player," said Tristen, a defensive lineman on his football team, after meeting Shields at the Story Time meet-and-greet.
"I love that he is able to do this," Rowlance said of the event. "He is the biggest football fan in the family; he knows more about football than any of us."