He wasn't the loudest in the locker room. He wasn't the guy whose name was attached to all the headlines. But just ask some defensive lineman who had to line up across from Will Shields for three hours on some Saturday or Sunday what he was.
A bulldozer on the field, a gentleman off it.
"He is one of the all-time greats," said John Parrella, former Husker defensive tackle. "He might be the best offensive lineman to play the game."
So it made all the sense in the world when Shields heard his named called Tuesday to be part of the College Football Hall of Fame's 2011 class.
"There's not many more deserving than that guy," said former Husker offensive line coach Milt Tenopir. "A great player for us, great character, great person. He really had the whole package."
Look at the former Husker offensive guard's credentials and you'll see his selection to the 16-person class was a no-brainer.
The first Husker scholarship player ever from the state of Oklahoma, Shields was just the second offensive lineman to play as a true freshman at Nebraska in 1989. Before his career was over, he was a consensus All-American, a Lombardi finalist, an Outland Trophy winner.
Now, a Hall of Famer.
"What an honor," Shields said. "As Coach Osborne would say, it is one of those indelible ink moments, that once you are selected into the Hall of Fame, your name will be listed there forever, regardless of what else may happen from this moment. I'm still pretty much in shock."
As welcome as that news was to Husker fans, some felt a different kind of shock that quarterback Tommie Frazier wasn't voted into the Hall of Fame alongside Shields.
Frazier was among the 79 player names on the ballot, and many thought he'd likely be among the selections.
You know, given that he directed Nebraska to two national championships, finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting and is considered one of the best option quarterbacks of all time.
But Frazier, on the ballot for the first time, will have to wait at least a year to be inducted.
This news rankled more than a few who were quick to notice that Ohio State running back Eddie George, who edged Frazier in the Heisman race in 1995, was chosen this year. It should be noted this was not George's first time on the ballot, which probably increased his chances over Frazier's.
Still, even those outside the state lines were mystified at Frazier not making the cut this year. One national writer for CBS Sports wrote: "So if Tommie Frazier is not an immediate, unquestionable first-ballot Hall of Famer in this sport, then what is the point of having a College Football Hall of Fame?"
However it's viewed, Frazier's Hall-of-Fame moment seemingly is coming soon.
And Frazier no doubt enjoyed hearing the good news for Shields, who was a senior when the quarterback was a freshman.
Shields stood a mountainous 6-foot-1 and more than 300 pounds during his playing days. But he was swift for his size, as evidenced in the 1992 game against Colorado when Tom Osborne called on Shields to run the fumblerooski.
Let it be known that Shields rumbled for 16 yards on the play and moved the chains. (And given that the NCAA outlawed the fumblerooski after that season, Shields can lay claim to fame as the last person to run it.)
"He had excellent leadership ability, which he accomplished in a quiet way," Osborne said. "He led by example and was a person of outstanding character."
Shields is the 15th Husker player to be elected into the College Football Hall of Fame, which also includes six Nebraska coaches.
After NU, he went on to even greater football success in the NFL. Twelve times he was named to the Pro Bowl, and nine times he was selected as an All-Pro as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Shields was one of 14 players and two coaches (Michigan's Lloyd Carr and Air Force's Fisher DeBerry) selected into this year's class, which included former Florida State defensive back Deion Sanders.
And while it's Shields' abilities as a football player that put him there, those around him are quick to say that he's an even better person outside the lines.
Osborne pointed out that Shields used to mentor a junior high school boy while he was playing at Nebraska, and continued to be an example to young people in Kansas City while playing for the Chiefs.
Because of his role in various charitable organizations, Shields was once named NFL Man of the Year.
"Not only was he a great football player, but Will is a great man," Parrella said. "What he has done for families off the field is his legacy and testimony to who he is."