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Bill Cowher: 'He was a nurturing person'

Posted Apr 14, 2017

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney meant so much to so many.

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney had a lasting impact on the lives of so many, and earned the respect of everyone who met him.

The memories, the stories, are endless. From Ike Taylor sharing stories of him napping on Mr. Rooney’s couch, to Kordell Stewart giving him ties from his own closet, to Rocky Bleier owing him so much for being ‘in his corner.’

Many shared what made Dan Rooney special.

Bill Cowher, former head coach:
“He was a mentor. He was a friend. He was just a nurturing person. He was one of those guys who was more worried about you developing as a person than anything to do with football. He used to always say, ‘Just do the right thing.’ I came there as a young coach and I left there a better man. He had tremendous wisdom and guidance and he had a way of keeping things in proper perspective. He never got too high, he never got too low. He set the bar.  

“We lost a man with great humility. If there’s anything we need more in our world today…it’s humility. This is a guy who when he spoke, everyone listened. When he talked, he had thoughts and ideas and people took it and ran with it. He moved back into the North Side. He never forgot his roots. That was the message he left with everybody. Just never forget where you came from and be thankful for what you have, and give back when you can. Those are the things that resonated and were the very fiber of what he was about.”

Ike Taylor, former cornerback:
“I called him Pops for a reason. I looked at Mr. Rooney as a father-figure. He displayed without talking. You have a Hall of Fame owner who understood players. When you look at his history, growing up with the players, his dad having him around the players at training camp, going on trips, the players helping him do his homework, you see why he is a player’s owner. You see why guys appreciate Papa Rooney. You see why guys have respect for him. It wasn’t about money, the owner or the title. It was about him understating the players and people in general. Everything from Papa Rooney was genuine and authentic. It’s hard to find that from anyone in general, let alone a guy that high on status.

“If Mother Teresa and Ghandi had a kid, it would be Mr. Rooney.”

Cameron Heyward, defensive end
“Mr. Rooney left a lasting imprint on the Steelers organization, the Pittsburgh community, and everyone he came in contact with. I was very fortunate to have shared conversations and laughter with him. I always felt like he genuinely cared about not just the athlete, but how the person was doing. His humility and kindness always stood out. He reached out to me when I first got drafted all the way out from Ireland. I didn't think the Ambassador would have time to talk, but he did and he congratulated me on my new start. Later on I got to meet him in person and the way he welcomed me it was like I was part of his family. Through tough times he would ask how I was doing and I just appreciate that the most. Whether we won or lost, he would come shake my hand and always looked me in my eyes to tell me he appreciated our effort. I will never forget this man. Thank you DMR. You have truly impacted me.”

David DeCastro, guard:
"It’s a tough day, a sad day. Mr. Rooney was one of the friendliest and most genuine people I have ever met. He always took the time to talk to everyone, and he always asked how everyone was doing. Whether it was a win or a loss, he always walked around the locker room and shook hands with everyone. I am so thankful that he gave me the opportunity to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Art Rooney II and the entire Rooney Family."

Tony Dungy, Hall of Fame Coach, former Steelers defensive back and coach:

“Friendship, advice, always being able to tell you the right thing to do. And he did things the right way. It goes back to the Bible and treating people the way you want to be treated. He was the example of how to treat people. He was such an example for me. The first 10 years of my football career, being there and seeing how to do things the right way, that was the biggest thing for me.

“If you have been around Pittsburgh, you felt his impact. He was the example of how you treat people and serve your city, your country, your community, your team. I think we lost a tremendous example.”


Hines Ward, former wide receiver:
“He meant the world to us. To me personally, he helped me so much with life lessons and that’s something I’ll always cherish. I remember when I first got to Pittsburgh and I got drafted, learning the art of the handshake. When you walked into Three Rivers, through the building, you would say hi Mr. Rooney. He was little in size, but he had a strong grip and handshake. I remember he was like ‘Shake my hand, look me in the face every time I see you.’ He taught me the art of the handshake and it’s something I passed on to my son.

“He was that father figure, that grandfather that I never had. He taught me about giving back to the City of Pittsburgh, giving back to the community. Just seeing him in the locker room when we won big games and seeing him in the locker room after losing, after a disappointing loss. Those are the memories I’m going to cherish. Walking around and having a relationship with each and every individual on that team and knowing everything about everybody on this team. I will cherish that the rest of my life.

“We lost a father figure who taught us the value of hard work, the value of giving back, who loved being humble through good times and bad times. That’s what he represented to me.


Donnie Shell, former safety:
“He was genuine and authentic. It’s just hard to find those types of people now, but for him to be an owner and be genuine and authentic – and he treated everybody like family. He really had a genuine respect for everybody.

“He set the example for the way you treat people and the way you act. He loved God, loved the family and loved football. That’s what I saw in him. Sometimes they say a guy was a great player and there was no other like him. I don’t think any other owner will ever be like him. He had his own unique way and quiet manner, but when he spoke up, everybody listened. I don’t think the NFL can replace that.”

Kordell Stewart, former quarterback:
“He just wanted to relax and enjoy the time. That’s what he always told me – enjoy yourself. I played wide receiver – enjoy yourself. I played quarterback – great job. Enjoy yourself. We lose a big game – great job, I’m proud of you. Like seriously. Most guys are going crazy because of certain things not happening, but one guy who stayed steady at all times was Mr. Dan Rooney. He didn’t skip a beat. With joy from his heart and his conversation, to how he moved. I only had an opportunity to be around his life for eight years, and many times I had a chance to come back and see him, for those who got to spend a lifetime or the majority of their lives with him – I mean, the little bit that I got with him, he was like my dad.

“There is no other owner out there better than him. He left something behind that the organization and fan base of the Steelers, and players, will forever and always appreciate. If you don’t, you don’t belong there. The work he put in is what made people appreciate him. He had a heart that was courageous, one made of steel and one that made sure everyone around him was happy. He will be missed, but his spirit will always be remembered. He always gave you a chance, he gave you an opportunity. That is what he did for me.”

Rocky Bleier, former running back:
“The interesting thing about Dan, and his impact on the city, is he was in the shadows of his father to begin with, back in the later part of the 60s when I came here. ‘The Chief’ was the face of the Steelers. Dan brought the team into the 21st century. My personal interaction, it was Dan who gave me an opportunity to play this game. He put me on the injured reserve list and bought me a couple of years when I came back from Vietnam. It was Dan who was in my corner. He was that way in every player’s corner.

“He came in and helped structure a dynasty in getting Chuck Noll with the same belief the family had, that people were the most important part. He had a hand in turning the NFL with rules and direction. He had the respect of other owners. He became the in-between guy. He quietly got things done. He had a big hand in where the Steelers and the National Football League are today.”

David Baker, Pro Football Hall of Fame President:
"The Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the loss of an incredible and loving man. Ambassador Rooney epitomized all that is great about this game that he and his family helped grow into an American institution. His impact on the game was profound. I have never met a man who possessed such humility and integrity as Dan Rooney. All of us associated with the Hall of Fame are indebted to him for the contributions he made to the game and for his decades of service as a member of our Board of Trustees. Tomorrow, the flag at the Pro Football Hall of Fame will fly at half-staff in honor of one of the greatest men to ever serve this game. We will keep his wife Pat and the entire Rooney family in our prayers and hope they find comfort in knowing that Dan's legacy will forever be kept alive in Canton, Ohio."

Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins Owner:
"Mr. Rooney was an amazing man who made such tremendous contributions to the NFL, the City of Pittsburgh and the people of our community. I feel very fortunate to have known him. He impacted many of our lives, and he left a legacy that makes us all proud to be Pittsburghers."

David Morehouse, Pittsburgh Penguins President/CEO:
"Dan Rooney exemplified the very best of Pittsburgh. He was classy, courteous, dedicated, honest, hard-working - and, most of all, he never forgot where he came from. He and his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers set the standard for operating a first-class professional sports franchise - both on and off the field - and his generous contributions to our community will never be forgotten. From a personal standpoint, I was honored to call him a friend and always appreciated his unwavering support of the Penguins. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Patricia, and the entire Rooney family. Mr. Rooney was a champion and a true Pittsburgh icon. He will be missed."

Bob Nutting, Pittsburgh Pirates Chairman:
“We at the Pirates are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dan Rooney. A dedicated family man, Dan was a visionary leader in the NFL, in the United States Foreign Service and for the City of Pittsburgh that he loved so much. He positively and fundamentally changed the lives of so many.

“Personally I have deep appreciation and respect for Mr. Rooney. He was always there for me to offer guidance and perspective as only he could. He and the Rooney family set the standard for an ideal owner of a sports franchise. I am honored and lucky to have been able to call him a friend and mentor.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rooney family, the Steelers and Steelers Nation on this very sad day.”

Patrick Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor:
“Dan Rooney was an innovative leader who forever shaped the sport of football and the city of Pittsburgh. His knack for resolving conflict, championing diversity and pursuing excellence with integrity earned him not only Super Bowl rings, but our collective admiration and affection. On behalf of the University of Pittsburgh, I extend my deepest sympathies to the entire Rooney family and the Steelers franchise.”

Heather Lyke, University of Pittsburgh Athletic Director:
“Growing up in Canton in the shadow of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I became educated very early on about ‘The Steelers Way' and the incredible family tradition of this iconic NFL franchise. Since arriving in Pittsburgh last month, I have been able to experience firsthand the tremendous class and warmth of the Rooney family. Dan Rooney has an incredible legacy that goes well beyond the football field and we will all continue to be inspired by his example and memory. Our prayers and sympathies are with the Rooney family and all of Steelers Nation.”

DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA Executive Director:
“The NFLPA is saddened to hear about the loss of Ambassador Dan Rooney. Our condolences go out to the Rooney family and to all in the Steelers organization.”

Sean McManus, Chairman of CBS Sports:
“Mr. Rooney was the epitome of class. His contributions to the NFL were many and far reaching. Stability, generosity and performance are all synonymous with the Rooney name. Mr. Rooney clearly and systematically moved the NFL forward in the area of diversity and inclusiveness with the Rooney Rule. His enormous legacy will be felt at the NFL for generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Rooney Family.”