Dan Rooney: It's Not About the Money
By Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the NFL’s most championed franchises. It’s the team that’s won five Super Bowl Championships and produced Hall of Famers, like “mean” Joe Green, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Jack Lambert. There are few who can talk about the team and its history other than owner, Dan Rooney. Recently The 700 Club sports reporter, Shawn Brown, sat down with Rooney.
Interview with Dan Rooney:
Dan Rooney: Steelers' football is something that we really go all out. Our number one thing is to win. We want to do it right. We don’t want to cheat or anything like that. We want to do the right way and measure up.
In his book, My 75 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL, Dan recalls the history of the team, as well as the challenges and the NFL had to overcome in order to survive.
Shawn Brown: Here [stadium] is where the season begins for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And it’s been that way for the last 42 years. But the legacy of the Steelers began over 75 years ago, on the north side of Pittsburgh, with a man and his five sons.
Art Rooney, Dan’s father, realized the opportunity bringing professional football to Pittsburgh. So, in 1933, he paid $2500 for a National Football League franchise. He named the team the Pittsburgh Pirates, like the long established baseball team. The name didn’t quite fit. So, in 1940 they became the Pittsburgh Steelers. And Dan was there for as long as he can remember.
Dan: I knew as I got older than lets say 5,6,7 - I knew my father had the football team. We always had the equipment downstairs in the basement in the off season. I was very much involved and knew what was happening.
Though there were five sons, Dan and his younger brother, Art Jr., worked closely with their father, and he says he’s learned some valuable lessons about faith and leadership.
Dan: My father was really a people person. He always talked to me about, ‘don’t ever think you’re too big or to good for people. Everybody is important regardless of race, religion, or anything else.’ His faith meant everything to him. And he practiced, and he expected us to practice our faith. I remember they had Sunday school. So my father would say, ‘You’ve got to go to Sunday school.’ So, he always made sure we practiced our faith.
Shawn: Do you turn to God for guidance with franchise draft decisions?
Dan: Sure. Yeah, I mean, I pray each morning and go to mass and talk and say, ‘let the Holy Spirit guide us and make the right selections,’ and things like that. So I definitely call upon God to assist us and make the right selections.
Dan became franchise president in 1955. Up until then, the Steelers hadn’t played a post season game in years. But 1969 brought a new era in Steelers’ history. They hired head coach Chuck Noll to turn the struggling team around. Three years later, they made it to the 1972 playoffs against the Oakland Raiders. With just 22 seconds left in the game, they trailed 7-6. The next play would go down as one of the most memorable moments in NFL history.
Dan: The “Immaculate Reception”. That was it. There’s no question. That was it. That was probably the best play in the history of the league.
With time running out, Terry Bradshaw through a pass that was deflected by an Oakland defender. Out of nowhere, Steelers running back Franco Harris caught the ball inches from the ground, and ran it in to win the game.
Dan: He just took the ball right up the field. And then we went on - won our division for the first time.
The next season, the Steelers went on to win two consecutive Super Bowls. And Dan says it was great winning them with his dad.
Dan: That’s a great thing, to be there with him for the first one especially. Everybody with the exception of Minnesota was for him.
Art “the chief” Rooney, passed away in 1988. But Dan’s continued his legacy of leadership. In 1992, Chuck Noll retired and Dan found one of Pittsburgh’s own, head coach Bill Cower, who before retiring in 2007, led the Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl Championship. But Dan’s reflection of his father is not just felt with his team, but through out the league as well. One example of that is his suggestion of the “Rooney rule,” which requires all NFL teams to interview at least one minority for a head coaching position.
Shawn: Why was it important for you to implement the Rooney Rule?
Dan: Well, let’s say - whether it was called the Rooney Rule or not - the thing that it was, was to give everybody a chance; and to recognize that there are black men that can be as good a coach as anyone else. That’s the thing, to give them a chance. So, we said if you’re going to hire a coach, you must interview at least one minority. And that opened the door for everybody.
Everybody including Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, and Steelers’ current head coach, Mike Tomlin, to name a few. According to “Mr. Rooney,” the future of the Steelers and the NFL looks bright, but there’s a few things he wants to make sure those around him understand.
Dan: Money means nothing. I never made any decision based on money. Values, integrity, character, and all of those things - I think are important.
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