Steeler Nation, the Steelers’ organization and the world have lost a great man. Bill Nunn longtime Steelers’ scouting pioneer past away Tuesday May 6 2014 due to complications from a stroke he had recently suffered. He was 89.
Bill Nunn began as a sports writer and managing editor of the Pittsburgh Courier ,one of the most prominent black newspapers in the country at the time.He picked the Black College All-America football team for the paper starting in 1950. His work through the newspaper opened many doors for African-American football players and had a major impact on changing the face of all sport and culture.
In 1967 Bill Nunn became a part-time scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers after a talk with Dan Rooney about scouting the black colleges for the Steelers. Nunn had many connections at these colleges and was a great judge of talent.
He was hired to a full-time position in 1969 and promoted to assistant director of player personnel in 1970.
Bill Nunn had a great hand in building the Steelers dynasty of the 70’s and is responsible for bringing many Steeler greats to the team. L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas AM&N), Mel Blount (Southern), Ernie Holmes (Texas Southern), John Stallworth (Alabama A&M) and Donnie Shell (South Carolina State) are just a few that helped bring the Steelers four Super Bowl championships from 1975 to 1980.
Nunn “retired” from the Steelers in 1987 but in reality took on a part time role as Senior Assistant, Player Personnel and evaluated film on players up till the week of his stroke.
Bill Nunn was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and was an inaugural member of the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
The 2014 NFL Draft marks the 40th anniversary of the Steelers famed 1974 draft class that included an astonishing four future Hall of Fame Players. Nunn was a big part of that draft.
Here are a few statements from former Steelers and the Steelers’ organization on Bill Nunns contributions …
Steelers chairman Dan Rooney : “We have lost a great friend and a great person who did so much for the Steelers organization with the passing of Bill Nunn. Bill was a special person who did everything in his career, from playing sports to being an excellent journalist all of which led to his outstanding career in scouting for the Steelers.”
“Bill had extraordinary instinct in identifying talent throughout his career, including the legendary 1974 NFL Draft for us. He put us ahead of so many other teams in the NFL by leading the efforts of drafting African-American football players at traditional black colleges. Very few people had a bigger impact in the history of our franchise, and his positive attitude and contributions will truly be missed.”
Tony Dungy: “There is no way the Steelers win those Super Bowls in the ’70s without him,” former Steelers player, former NFL assistant coach and head coach, and current analyst for NBC’s Football Night in America Tony Dungy told PFT via text message. “He tutored me during my time on the staff as well. I will miss him.”
Mel Blount: ““You cannot write the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers without Bill Nunn.When you look at the Steelers of the 1970s, none of that would have happened without Bill Nunn.”
“He had a pulse on the beat of black college football,” Mr. Blount said. “Bill knew where all the great players were because of the time he spent at the Courier. He had great contacts with the coaches and the athletic directors at the small black colleges. He had a tremendous influence.”
Steeler Nation , today the Steelers will be picking their 2014 first round pick from the room at the Steelers’ offices where draft meetings are held and is named in the honor of Bill Nunn , “The Bill Nunn Draft Room”. Nunn was still involved in the evaluation progress of many of the players the Steelers may choose in the 2014 draft.
Bill Nunn will be deeply missed but never forgotten .