Shell spoke to his father the next morning. "I told him to hang in there tough, that I loved him so much," says Shell. "I told him I'd made the Hall of Fame. He tried to speak, but I couldn't understand him. My brother Bennie got back on the phone and said that when I'd called, he had just finished reading Dad about my making the Hall of Fame. He said Dad smiled, and then a weird thing happened: Bennie heard him clearly say, 'That's nice.' "
Arthur Sr., 67, died late the next day. His final wish was that the family stay close. Shell took the death hard. "I didn't get to see him before he closed his eyes," he says. "He died an hour before my plane landed. I went straight to the hospital and sat in the room with him by myself. I reflected on my life. I know I had made him happy."
Six months later all the Shells and their children met in Canton for Art's Hall of Fame induction. Arthur III, 15, and his brother, Christopher, 13, sat in the front row with Janice. Eartha sat in a wheelchair because she had recently lost part of her left leg to diabetes. "The weekend was very difficult," says Kenneth. "I hurt to my heart. Art was often in tears. He'd say, 'Daddy's not here.' I'd remind him that Daddy and Mama were both right there beside all of us."
Part of the family got together again after Art was named coach of the Raiders. Brothers Bennie and Lawrence were at Giants Stadium for the victory over the Jets. So was Janice. Kenneth, however, couldn't break away from his job as head football coach at Carver High in Baltimore. "When I heard he got the job, I cried," says Kenneth. "My players picked me up in the air and twirled me around. I'd always teased that I was the family's first head coach."
On Sunday, Upshaw got to share in the joy of Shell's recent successes. Before the Chiefs game, Shell was presented with his Hall of Fame ring. Upshaw, Otto, Willie Brown and Fred Biletnikoff, some of the Raiders' other Hall of Famers, took turns shaking Shell's hand. As he watched his best friend, Upshaw remembered Rudyard Kipling's If-, which they had memorized as young professionals.
...If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!
"We've always used that poem as our point of reference, to remember what we are, who we are, to keep our values straight and to think about where we're going," says Upshaw. "Here we are in 1989, and we're still talking about firsts: the first black head coach. In the early years I didn't think Art would be a pioneer. Lately I was worried that it would get to the point where he would be too old to become a head coach. Maybe I shouldn't have. There's one thing that Art and I have learned over the years: You shouldn't be afraid to dream, because you can wake up and find out it's a reality."