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Dan Rooney R.I.P.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Steel City’s Rock

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April 13, 2017 will long be a date remembered in Pittsburgh. It’s the day longtime Steelers owner Dan Rooney passed away at age 84. To list his contributions to the organization would require a book. In short, he took over his father’s (Art “The Chief” Rooney) football team in the late ’60’s, and for the next near-50 years he presided over the most well-run professional sporting organization in history. His legacy includes an NFL record six Super Bowl Championships, tons of Hall of Fame players, countless playoff appearances, and one of the very best winning percentages of any team during his reign. It should be noted and admired that since 1969 Mr. Rooney only hired three head football coaches (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and current head coach Mike Tomlin). Three coaches in 48 years. Wrap your brain around that for a minute. The Cleveland Browns have had more head coaches than that in the past 5 years! In a sense, that little factoid is a microcosm of how Dan Rooney lived his life. When he made decisions, he made good ones, and he stuck by them.

Dan with his son, Art II, and the greatest Steeler, Mean Joe Greene: Image Credit:

His success with theĀ Steelers can directly be attributed to his love of people. I’ve never heard or read a former or current Steelers player speak ill of the man. On the contrary, they all speak glowingly of the relationships and bonds they forged with their boss. He had a personal, sincere way about him. He made time for every player, from the stars to guys at the end of the bench. He appreciated them. He cared. For this reason, the many years of success his teams have enjoyed come as no surprise to me. So many of his players returned his kindness with hard work, dedication, and a passion for Steelers football. Think about it. Have you ever had a great boss? Someone you truly believed cared about your well-being? Didn’t you want to work a little bit harder for that person? Of course you did.

In the short time that’s passed since his death was announced, nearly every league owner and high-ranking league official has released a formal statement honoring Mr. Rooney for his contributions to the NFL. I’ve seen several owners pass away during the years I’ve followed the NFL. I’ve never seen a league-wide response and universal show of gratitude like this. His contributions to league policy, mentoring to commissioners and new owners, and sage counsel to fellow owners are unparalleled. He wisely understood what was good for the league was ultimately good for his team as well. The good of the many outweighing the good of the few, or one.

Eventually Mr. Rooney handed the day-to-day reigns of operations to his son Art, a third-generation of Rooneys at the helm of the Steelers, yet his work was not done.

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At age 77, President Obama named Dan Rooney the United States Ambassador to Ireland. A tremendous honor for an Irish-American of strong Catholic faith who held a passion for his heritage. Mr. Rooney took on the task in full force, and still made the time to fly round-trip on Sundays back to the States to be present at his Steeler’s football games. Not a bad day’s work for an “old guy!”

I obviously never met Dan Rooney, but I’ve long admired him. There’s something to be said about living a full life. By full I don’t just mean a long life. There’s a difference. Some people live long lives and one day pass away without ever living up to their potential or leaving a mark on the life they lived. Dan Rooney lived a great life, and he made his mark. He made a difference. To achieve greatness is one thing. To achieve greatness through humility is a far more admirable feat in my book. Many people loved, admired, and respected this man. It’s because that’s exactly the way he treated people. The world can learn from his example.

Rest in Peace Ambassador Rooney.

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