PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell was in his mid-20s when he first met Dan Rooney.
On Friday, he told KDKA’s Jon Delano that from the start Mr. Rooney was his mentor.
“I was reflecting on it, and it was clear to me that he was teaching me.”
And it wasn’t just an occasional phone call.
Goodell: “I was trying to count up the years, and it’s probably been thirty years that I would talk to Dan almost every day.”
Delano: “Every day?”
Goodell: “He was very interested in what was going on throughout the league, but it was also a very deep personal relationship.”
It was Mr. Rooney who told Goodell in 2006 that, after multiple ballots, the owners had elected him commissioner.
“Dan knocked on the door. I didn’t know it was Dan at the time. I opened the door, and he stuck out his hand, and said, “commissioner.” That was a great moment, and a moment we shared together.”
In all their years together, Goodell says Mr. Rooney kept Pittsburgh front and center.
“The great thing about Dan and the Rooney family is their devotion to Pittsburgh and to the values of Pittsburgh,” Goodell told Delano.
“And they wanted that team to reflect on the great city of Pittsburgh.”
“He always talked about faith and family and football,” added Goodell. “Pittsburgh, Ireland, they were all part of that.”
KDKA asked Goodell what he thought Dan Rooney’s most lasting legacy on football will be.
“Well, broadly I would say, very much, Jon, it was his focus on the game.”
“He was always concerned about the game. We hear so much about his Hall of Fame career, his tremendous influence on labor relations, his tremendous influence with the Rooney rule, but I saw a much deeper side.”
“He was very, very concerned about the game, and that was one of the things I grew to respect and admire about him.”
And Goodell says Mr. Rooney’s passing will be felt deeply.
“As a commissioner, I’ve lost a great voice that was so critical at times when we were making decisions.”