For Kevin Colbert and John Stallworth, Steelers football has been in their blood for more than 40 years.
Colbert, the Steelers Vice President and General Manager, was a fan of the team dating back to the 1970s when the teenager from Pittsburgh's North Side cheered on the black and gold as they won four Super Bowl Championships.
Stallworth, now part of the Steelers ownership group, was a member of the famed 1974 Steelers NFL Draft class, and a player on the teams Colbert cheered for.
On Wednesday night the two of them shared center stage at the 82nd Annual Dapper Dan Dinner and Sports Auction. The annual dinner honors the best in sports in Western Pennsylvania, and there is no doubt those two fit the bill.
Colbert, who has regularly attended the Dapper Dan Dinner through the years to honor others, was the recipient of the Freddie Fu Leadership Award.
"It's very humbling," said Colbert. "It was a nice surprise just to be a part of the evening in an honorable fashion. It's always a good night.
"I have been very fortunate to be around some great people in this business and just in life in general. To have Mr. (Dan) Rooney, who we have all benefitted from being around when he was with us. Of course Art Rooney. I have been very fortunate to work with great head coaches, Coach (Mike) Tomlin and Coach (Bill) Cowher here. With the Miami Dolphins I got to see Coach (Don) Shula in action. With the Detroit Lions Coach (Wayne) Fontes and Coach (Bobby) Ross. I have been around a lot of outstanding professional leaders, as well as the people in your own lives that influence you every day, going back to my high school coach, Ron Hughes. He was a great leader and got me going in this business.
"I have been around a lot of people so what I do is really just do my job. How people interpret that I am really not aware of. It's just part of the deal."
How they interpret it, quite simply, is with respect. Colbert is respected and admired by everyone he comes in contact with, from coaches to players, office staff to media.
"When you talk about leadership, knowledge of self is where you start," said Tomlin. "The single most impressive thing about Kevin is his knowledge of self. He is really comfortable in his shoes. I think it allows him to really be consistent from a leadership standpoint. We are in volatile circumstances and situations all of the time. The number of issues we deal with, just by the nature of the business, is challenging. His steadiness, his knowledge of self, and how comfortable he is in his shoes really provides good, steady leadership in an environment that can be less than steady."
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and HOFer John Stallworth were honored at the 82nd Annual Dapper Dan Dinner.
Colbert was hired as the Steelers director of football operations in 2000, and later became the team's first general manager in 2011. Under his leadership the team won Super Bowl XL and XLIII, three AFC Championships, nine division titles, earned 12 playoff berths and recorded at least nine wins in 18 seasons.
"I grew up in the 1970s when the teams were awesome and you watched guys like Joe Greene, John Stallworth, and Jack Lambert and so on," said Colbert. "You never thought you would end up working for this organization. I didn't see, feel or anticipate this path, but it's where it led. It's a true blessing to be a part of this. Referencing the people I have been able to work with, it's really an honor."
Colbert operates in a world where it's not about me, but about us. You will always hear him refer to the draft as the 'Steelers draft,' not his draft. If you want to know how to be a team player, just follow Colbert's lead.
"The thing that is special is it's a natural thing with Kevin," said Tomlin. "It's any and every aspect of interactions with him. You know it's not something he consciously makes a decision to do. It's just him. What an added benefit to be a natural leader, but an ultimate team player at the same time. Characteristics that you just value and appreciate."
What else is valued is Colbert's sense of giving back, of being a viable part of the community.
"I think that is our obligation," said Colbert. "Having watched Mr. Rooney, from the time we were together, he influenced not only this organization, but everybody he touched. I think that it's your obligation to give back to the community that has provided you. It's nothing you do intentionally or think about, it's just what you should do in your everyday actions, helping somebody who needs more than you do."
Stallworth and Steelers football have gone hand-in-hand since 1974, so it only makes sense that he is the recipient of this year's Dapper Dan Lifetime Achievement Award.
"Winning this means during the course of your life, not only your time as a football player, but your time after that, you made an impact," said Stallworth. "Chuck Noll would tell us football is not your life's work. It means the things we have done as an athlete and our life's work have been notable. To me it means we have been able to do some good in the lives of people around us, we have been able to affect change in a positive way in our community. We have been able to affect the growth of people around us, in our family, outside of our family. When those who make these kinds of awards look back on the years and what we have done as people, as human beings, and deemed to be noteworthy."
Stallworth said looking at the list of past winners of the award, which includes some of his former teammates, is humbling.
"The names, as I look back at them, are just stored in my memory," said Stallworth. "To be considered part of that group is fantastic. Joe Greene, Franco Harris, those names jumped out at me. The Dapper Dan is a tradition of honoring folks who have been a part of the scene in Pittsburgh and touched Pittsburgh in various ways.
"Then when I think about the charities the Dapper Dan has helped, and how helpful that has been for so many, it gives me a great sense of pride of being a part of that group. You want to do things to help so many folks. I am proud of that."
Stallworth, the Steelers fourth-round selection in the historic Steelers 1974 NFL Draft class, played 14 seasons for the Steelers and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He caught 537 passes for 8,723 yards and 63 touchdowns, and also scored one rushing touchdown.
He played in six AFC championship games and was a part of the Steelers four Super Bowl championships and was named team MVP twice. Stallworth was named All-Pro in 1979, All-AFC in 1979 and 1984 and played in four Pro Bowls. He had 12 postseason touchdown catches and 17-consecutive postseason games with a reception. Stallworth scored the game winning touchdown on a 73-yard reception in Super Bowl XIV against the Los Angeles Rams.
His accomplishments go well beyond the football field. Stallworth, who earned his MBA while still playing, established the John Stallworth Foundation in 1980 and has provided scholarships to more than 150 students at his alma mater, Alabama A & M.
Today, Stallworth is a partner at Genesis II, which was founded to "enhance both partner's philanthropic support efforts, investments and related business interests." He also became part of the Steelers ownership group in 2009, keeping his unbreakable tie to the organization and the City of Pittsburgh at the forefront of his life.
"It makes it special that we are part of that community," said Stallworth. "My first year, in 1974, I was made to feel part of a family. Not just the family that made up the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the family that made up Steelers Nation. A family in a sense that those around you want you to grow, want the best for you. When I think about what being associated with the Rooney family, and especially Dan Rooney, has meant to my life. My relationship with Chuck Noll and how I grew under his leadership. That is what families are all about, helping to grow, being supportive when things are not going well, and helping others celebrate when good things happen. I think about all of that. The good times in Pittsburgh, the times when things weren't so good, the people who were there to support me when things weren't going so well for me, when there were injuries. I hope I am able to be that for some folks also, with the Steelers and Western Pennsylvania.
"My wife and I think about it all the time, the relationships we have built. My wife and I got married in 1974, that relationship with Pittsburgh and the Steelers has been a part of us, a part of our family, since we have been together as husband and wife. I look back on how long I have been friends with all of the guys I played with. Guys we have been friends with not just for a period in our life, but over the long haul, for a lifetime. Just like Pittsburgh has been a part of me for a lifetime."
Also honored at the dinner were Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who was the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year, and Robert Morris hockey standout Brittany Howard, who was the Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year.