PITTSBURGH (KDKA)– It’s been more than two years since that first game after Dan Rooney left us — and still there is more to be said — and more we can learn — about the man and his accomplishments.
The rise of the NFL.
The great Super Bowl teams of the seventies.
And peace in Northern Ireland.
In all of those triumphs, his son, Jim, had a front-row seat. And since his father’s death, he’s been interviewing all the major figures involved as a way to pay tribute to his father and to grieve his loss.
“And for two years of talking to people and have people tear up, and having me tear up. It was definitely a special way to do it,” he said.
The result is “A Different Way to Win” Dan Rooney’s Story from the Super Bowl to the Rooney Rule — in which Jim pays particular attention to what may be the biggest achievement of all — the rule requiring that a minority candidate be interviewed for every NFL head coaching position. It’s since been adopted by major corporations and institutions and was born out of a lifelong disgust with racial prejudice passed down in the Rooney Family from Dan Rooney’s father — The Chief.
“It was just odd to them. They couldn’t understand how someone’s skin color made them that much different. Why in the world were people treated that much different just because of the pigment of their skin,” he said.
A master negotiator — he could bring players and owners together at collective bargaining time and even get protestant and catholic adversaries taking in Ireland even before he became U.S. ambassador there. But just as important as the accomplishments is the manner in which they were achieved. Combining competence with a basic respect for humanity, he projected strength in humility. It’s called integrity. It’s called class.
“I hope people see that you can have those qualities and have a big impact,” he said.
For this father, it was the power of keeping things real — and it was important that the authenticity of his hometown be reflected in the Steelers themselves.
“That that wasn’t a branding element or marketing, we wanted to do things that reflected the way the people of Pittsburgh lived,” he said.
These days Jim Rooney might wander into his father’s office overlooking the practice fields at Steeler headquarters and remember his last years here. And for all of his far-flung travels and worldwide impact — Dan Rooney would always return to the place that made his who he was.