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Old 01-28-2007, 06:08 AM   #1
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Default Dan Rooney: Born to be a Steeler

Dan Rooney: Born to be a Steeler
Dapper Dan Lifetime Achievement Award

Sunday, January 28, 2007

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dan Rooney sat in his office at old Three Rivers Stadium one day in the 1980s and pointed a finger at the Steelers National Football League charter hanging on a wall.

"I wish that thing were still worth $2,500," Rooney said.

Forbes Magazine pegs the Steelers' value at $880 million today, a tidy return on Art Rooney's original investment to join the NFL in 1933.

The reason his son Dan preferred the old value of the team is for estate planning and because the Rooneys do not plan to sell the Steelers and reap the team's worth.

Keeping the team in his family and in Pittsburgh -- and mostly as a success on the field -- is what Dan Rooney cites as his most gratifying accomplishment as the Dapper Dan Club selects him as winner of its 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rooney will accept the award April 15 at the annual Dapper Dan Dinner at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The Dapper Dan Man of the Year and Woman of the Year, yet to be announced, also will receive their honors at the dinner that night.

"Speaking of accomplishments, if that's the proper word, I would say keeping the team in Pittsburgh and being as viable as we've been," Rooney said.

The Steelers' five Lombardi Trophies in six trips to the Super Bowl are tied for the most. Dan and Art Rooney are one of only two fathers and sons to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

All that success came after the Rooneys spurned offers from other cities in the 1950s and 1960s to move and/or sell their team, including Atlanta before the Falcons were born as an expansion franchise there in 1966.

"I always felt the team in Pittsburgh was very meaningful for the city itself," Rooney said. "It's almost like a public trust of ours to operate and do it right. Atlanta ... did everything to get us to come. We actually played a few preseason games there. I was trying to help them.

"I was on the expansion committee and they said: 'Why don't you move here?' I said don't waste your time. They said, use it, it will help you, you've been good to us. I said no, we don't do that."

"The one thing my father always said was Pittsburgh deserved a team and, now that we have it, we'll keep it. The one thing we never did, we never threatened to move, never used that as a threat."

Rooney, born the year before his ballclub in 1932, began what would be a string of jobs with the Steelers when he first served as a ballboy in 1946 at the age of 14. The next season, he played football at North Catholic High School.

"Your paper," Rooney said, "did a big piece on me: 'North Catholic's Halfback Problems Over, Dan Rooney Coming.' My friends really razzed me about that. They said, we thought you were a big wise guy. I didn't have anything to do with the story."

Rooney at first played halfback, the position that handled the football in the single wing. By the time he was a senior at North Catholic, he was selected second-team All-City Catholic League.

"First team was some guy who went to some little school, St. Justin's," Rooney said.

That was Johnny Unitas. The Steelers eventually signed Unitas after he played at Louisville, and coach Walt Kiesling cut him.

"He was the best," Rooney said. "Maybe the best quarterback whoever played in this league."

The second-team all-star took a different route. He graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in accounting in 1955 and went to work for his father full time. He signed players to contracts while he was still in college. He sold ads for the game program. He worked in the ticket office. He learned everything about the game and the business.

In 1965, Dan convinced his father to accept the resignation of hard-drinking coach Buddy Parker, and in 1969 he chose coach Chuck Noll.

Art Rooney finally made his son the team's president in 1975, long after he was running the show. Dan passed that title along to his son Art II in 2002 and became the team's chairman.

Rooney long has worked on league matters and on many NFL committees, including the powerful executive council. He has been credited with helping to solve at least two players strikes, in 1982 and in 1987, and one officials strike. He was the driving force for management that helped forge a new collective bargaining agreement in 1993 that remains the basis for today's CBA. Gene Upshaw, the NFL Players Association executive director, considers him a friend.

Rooney might have had the job of NFL commissioner that went to Paul Tagliabue in 1989 but he preferred not to leave the Steelers.

"I've been asked why I spend so much time on league matters, that you should take care of your own," Rooney said.

"I always said we're part of the NFL; by helping them we're helping ourselves."

Rooney will receive the Dapper Dan's third Lifetime Achievement Award. Arnold Palmer won in 2005 and last year it went to Joe Paterno.

"This is a great award," Rooney said. "I've been going to the Dapper Dan banquet since I was 10 or 12, when Al Abrams ran it. I heard a lot of great speeches. I heard Billy Conn say we're going to bring the heavyweight title back to Pittsburgh where it belongs."

Conn lost that 1946 fight to Joe Louis. Rooney's teams later went on to bring titles back to Pittsburgh five times.

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Old 01-28-2007, 04:21 PM   #2
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Default Re: Dan Rooney: Born to be a Steeler

"Dapper" Dan Rooney

About time.
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." -Thomas Jefferson
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Old 01-28-2007, 05:11 PM   #3
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Default Re: Dan Rooney: Born to be a Steeler

A well deserved award that is long overdue. The Rooneys have done more for the NFL than any other franchise in the history of the NFL. Congrats Mr. Rooney!

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Old 01-29-2007, 11:28 AM   #4
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Default Re: Dan Rooney: Born to be a Steeler

Good stuff. He's more than deserving.
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Old 01-29-2007, 12:28 PM   #5
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Default Re: Dan Rooney: Born to be a Steeler

That is a great read. That guy is all class.
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Old 01-29-2007, 12:49 PM   #6
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Default Re: Dan Rooney: Born to be a Steeler

Great article. Thanks for posting 83. Dan surely exudes class.
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