Longtime Steelers scout Bill Nunn had an eye for talent, and made Hall of Fame history

·3-min read

Bill Nunn had two big things working against his Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy. 

First, most of his work with the Pittsburgh Steelers was as a scout. Scouts work in the background. Everyone who understands NFL history knows what John Stallworth meant to the Steelers. Not as many know how he came to be a Steeler. 

Also, Nunn was a Black contributor. The Pro Football Hall of Fame had never enshrined a Black contributor. 

"I know my grandfather probably didn't think he was going to be in the Hall of Fame," Cydney Nunn, who unveiled her grandfather's Hall of Fame bust at a special enshrinement ceremony in April, told the Steelers website

Nunn made history, in a few ways. 

Bill Nunn was instrumental in Steelers' dynasty

Nunn joined the Steelers in 1967, becoming a full-time member of the personnel department in 1969. He held that role until 2014. 

Nunn found talent from historically Black colleges and universities, and those players formed a big part of the Steelers' famed dynasty. Legends like Donnie Shell, LC Greenwood, Mel Blount and Stallworth were scouted by Nunn. 

Steelers.com told a story of how Nunn scouted Stallworth. Stallworth didn't run the 40-yard dash well for scouts on a wet track at Alabama A&M. Nunn stayed behind when the other scouts left, and timed Stallworth again on a dry track. Stallworth ran much better. Nunn obtained the only game film of Stallworth that existed through his relationships with HBCU coaches. The Steelers took Stallworth in the fourth round, and Stallworth became a Hall of Famer. 

In total, 11 members of the Steelers' first Super Bowl team in 1974 were from HBCUs according to Steleers.com. It might have taken Nunn a long time to get his Hall of Fame due for that contribution to arguably the greatest team in NFL history, but it happened. 

He was already in the Black College Football Hall of Fame, then he became the first Black contributor in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

"It's incredible he is the first black contributor to be in the Hall of Fame," Cydney Nunn told the Steelers' website. "He made such a huge impact on this sport as we know it, the way he scouted players and how he opened doors for so many black athletes." 

Cydney Nunn unveils the bust of her grandfather Bill Nunn during a Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony in April. (Tom E. Puskar/AP Images for NFL)
Cydney Nunn unveils the bust of her grandfather Bill Nunn during a Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony in April. (Tom E. Puskar/AP Images for NFL)

Nunn had a big impact in NFL

Nunn died in 2014 after complications from a stroke. He was 89 years old. 

He started as a sportswriter and editor at the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper that covered Black colleges. He got in with the Steelers when he told Dan Rooney, son of then-Steelers owner Art Rooney, that he was frustrated more players from the Courier's All-American team weren't drafted by the NFL, according to The New York Times. The Steelers hired him. 

He became a champion for overlooked players who weren't getting chances. 

"Bill Nunn has done so much for the league over the years, not only for the Steelers but also when he was a reporter by going to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and finding all of the talent there and letting the NFL teams know about that talent," Shell told the team's website. 

Nunn finally got his Hall of Fame call, even if came years after his death. His contributions are not overlooked any longer, either. 

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