They are the individuals who in so many cases do the behind-the-scenes work. Their roles are key to keeping an NFL team functioning, but their names and faces are not often even known by those sitting in the stands watching games.
And now, the best of the best have been honored for their work by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, getting the recognition they truly deserve.
There were 20 individuals who were honored as the recipients of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Inaugural "Awards of Excellence" during a luncheon on Thursday in Canton, Ohio.
Included in those 20 who were honored were former Steelers public relations director Joe Gordon and equipment manager Tony Parisi. Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts served as the master of ceremonies, presenting a plaque to each honoree to acknowledge their lifetime achievement.
The "Awards of Excellence" honor four categories who contribute to the success of the team. They include assistant coaches, athletic trainers, equipment managers and public relations personnel. This year five from each category were honored, and you could easily see how proud each of the individuals and their families were for the recognition.
"It's so great to see guys that were behind the scenes, making things happen for so many years, be recognized like this," said Steelers President Art Rooney II, who attended the ceremony with a group from the Steelers organization. "Just a very special day and I couldn't be more proud of these guys to be with them today and see them be recognized this way."
Gordon was hired to handle every aspect of the Steelers public relations department in 1969, a one-man show in the department. During his tenure, the Steelers won four Super Bowl titles and the organization became one of the most respected and popular ones in the NFL.
"We didn't have much of a media following before the 70s," said Rooney of Gordon. "When they started showing up in droves in the 70s it was pretty amazing. Joe made everything click and kept everybody headed in the right direction."
Among Gordon's contributions to the team, and likely the greatest, is 11 Steelers from the 1970s would eventually be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in addition to Art Rooney Sr. and Dan Rooney. No NFL PR person has worked with more Hall of Famers than Gordon.
"It was relatively simple because we wound up with nine Hall of Famers, a Hall of Fame coach (Chuck Noll)," said Gordon during the ceremony of doing his job. "It was very easy to be popular if you were with a team that won four Super Bowls in six years. So, it was really a relatively easy thing to do.
"It's really something very, very special, but really the greatest honor I've ever had was working for the Steelers for 29 years."
Parisi joined the organization in 1965 and remained with the team until 1996. He was innovative and attentive to the needs of the players, always looking for ways to help them. He had a method of tailoring uniforms and use of two-way carpet tape on shoulder pads to keep the jerseys tight. He was always trying to help the players with customized cleats, shoes and any kind of equipment to help them with their on-field play.
"People would be amazed how much he meant to those guys in the 70s, getting them ready to play every week and making a pad, making shoes work," said Rooney of Parisi. "All the little stuff makes a difference."
While Parisi was in attendance, it was his grandson, Antonio Cordiero, who accepted the honor alongside him and delivered a statement on behalf of Parisi.
"Good afternoon. On behalf of my grandfather, we'd like to thank the NFL and the selection committee for this award," said Cordiero. "To the Rooney family and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, thank you for the opportunity to work for you in the decades and the memories. And finally, he'd like to thank his family for all their love and support over the years. We're very proud of you pop-pop."
Related: More on Gordon and Parisi
Former Steelers public relations director Joe Gordon and equipment manager Tony Parisi receive the Award of Excellence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame