He has done it all, from his youthful days as a ball boy to his groundbreaking moments that included the inception of the NFL’s Rooney Rule in 2003, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.
When you talk football, when you talk NFL, when you talk Pittsburgh Steelers – you have to talk about Dan Rooney. The two go hand-in-hand. And everyone knows that.
That is why the SportsBusiness Journal honored Rooney with their 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Rooney, who was born in 1932, the year before Art Rooney Sr. bought the Steelers, has the respect of individuals league-wide – from commissioners, to coaches, to players and even front office employees around the league.
“He can legitimately claim that he has been there from the beginning and grew up in the business and has had a tremendous passion for the NFL and the Steelers his entire life,” said his son, Steelers’ President Art Rooney II. “That’s been something that his passion shows, and he has been an inspiration to me and everybody in the organization for many years.
“My dad was born a year before the franchise was born so he always jokes that was his first birthday present, when my grandfather bought the franchise.”
Rooney joins an illustrious list of Lifetime Achievement Award winners that includes Billie Jean King, Jerry Reinsdorf, Peter Ueberroth and Paul Tagliabue.
“He’s probably one of the few people who that the reality of him is even more impressive than the reputation,” said Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin. “He’s very hands on. He’s a people person. He has the experience of a lifetime and he brings that to our building on a day-to-day basis.
“He lives his beliefs and he’s taken a belief in giving deserving applicants the opportunity to pursue advancement in our profession. He’s provided teeth to that concept, he’s provided a name to that concept, some bite to that concept and many people including myself have benefited from it.”
Rooney served as the United States Ambassador to Ireland from 2009-2012, but according to Steelers Hall of Famer Joe Greene, he earned that title long before.
“He was the Ambassador before he got the title Ambassador,” said Greene, who was Rooney’s Hall of Fame presenter. “When Dan spoke, people listened. He had a wealth of knowledge because he didn’t just come on the scene.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers are the envy of a lot of people in this league because of the consistency, and the way this organization goes about doing its business and that’s Dan Rooney.”