PITTSBURGH — The story behind Bill Nunn’s journey to the Pro Football Hall of Fame all starts with his family and his passion to make sure minority athletes had a fair chance to show their talents at the highest level.
“So many lives are different now because he gave people opportunities that they wouldn’t have had,” said Nunn’s granddaughter Cydney.
Cydney Nunn said she and her family felt an overwhelming sense of pride, joy and excitement to witness her late grandfather’s induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The ceremony involving Bill Nunn occurred in April, on the eve of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Nunn died in 2014 at the age of 89 years old.
Cydney had the honor of unveiling her grandfather’s bust.
“They don’t really give you any instructions on how to unveil it, how to take a little shroud off, so I just snatched it off,” Cydney told Channel 11′s Jenna Harner.
It’s a bust that will share Nunn’s story for centuries to come. It’s a story of a trailblazing scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who opened the door for black players in the NFL. Nunn’s insight of the talent at historically black colleges and universities helped bring names like Mel Blount, John Stallworth, L.C. Greenwood, Donnie Shell and others to Pittsburgh.
“For my grandfather to be in a space where the entire history of football is laid out for anyone to learn about it, especially fans. It really shows me that he is a part of that deep history of the NFL. I mean, there’s no other way to put it, he is a pivotal piece of the history of this league, and that is permanent now,” Cydney said.
It’s a recognition the Nunn family wasn’t sure was ever going to happen.
“Years ago there was rumblings of his name at one point, and he had made some comment like, if I don’t get now, it’s not going to happen and I’m not really that worried about it. It wasn’t something that he needed to validate himself, but for the rest of us looking on, I really wanted that validations for him because he was so deserving,” Cydney said.
That night in Canton, stories about Nunn were shared among his family, other members of the induction class, Steelers past and present and even a few current scouts who stopped in just hours ahead of the draft to celebrate a legend in their field.
“I started hearing these stories of, you know, things that he did on the road or things that made them a better scout or made them more observant or paid a little closer attention to detail, and so hearing those stories that I would have otherwise never heard really let me know that he touched a lot of lives,” Cydney said.
As his bronze bust now sits in the hall in Canton for the remainder of history, Cydney reflects on her memories of her grandfather, and how she can’t wait to continue spreading his legacy.
“People always describe my grandfather as very humble, and no nonsense, and very black and white, there’s no gray area with him - and just a really stand-up guy, a well respected and I strive to be like that,” Cydney said.
Cydney told Harner her grandmother, Bill’s widow, died just hours after hearing the news that her husband was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. She believes her grandmother couldn’t wait to celebrate the news with her husband.