NFL Pauses Draft To Pay Tribute To Dan Rooney

I don’t know if this was already prior knowledge, and perhaps I just missed it, but I really wasn’t expecting to see what I saw up on stage when it finally came time to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers’ selection in the first round, which literally had come in more than 15 minutes before it was actually finally named.

In case you didn’t see it yourself, I’m referring to the fact that the NFL paid homage to Steelers owner and chairman Dan Rooney, who passed away exactly two weeks prior to the opening day of the draft at the age of 84—born one year before the franchise even existed, this is literally the first decision that has been made without him.

The tribute began with Commissioner Roger Goodell speaking about Rooney’s impact on the game and on himself, but he was flanked with two men who knew him well, and played hard for him. Two Hall of Fame running backs, and Super Bowl champions. Franco Harris, and Jerome Bettis.

The crowd was very accommodating as the speakers went on, which I thought was a very nice moment, and to be honest, by the end of it, I had almost forgotten that the Steelers were about to announce their selection—which I had turned off Twitter to see live with surprise.

“Two weeks ago, we lost one of the most beloved members of our NFL family, Ambassador Dan Rooney”, the commissioner began. “A true [and literal] Hall of Famer, Dan embodies everything that is special about this game. He was a great leader for the Pittsburgh community, a tireless advocate for the Steelers. But more than that, he was one of the best men I’ve ever known”.

Goodell turned the microphone over the Harris, who talked about his love of the three pillars of his life: faith, family, and football. “He was so approachable, respectful”, he said. “He was good to the city of Pittsburgh” and “touched many lives”. While “he will be missed”, he concluded, “his spirit will live on”.

Then came Bettis’ turn, who has developed into a natural speaker in his post-retirement career in the media. “Mr. Rooney was great owner, but he was even a better person”, he began. “He got an opportunity to know each and every one of his players, not as the player, but as the man”.

The Bus relayed the uneven relationship he had with Rooney regarding ‘thank yous’. “He would always thank me for everything that I had done for the organization, all the while I was trying to thank him. He would never, ever let me thank him because he felt it was about what he did for his organization more than about what he did for me personally and my family”, he said. “So at this time I just want to say, thanks Dan, I appreciate it. We’ll miss you”.

The whole moment, I confess, caught me a bit off-guard and nearly took me out of the draft for those brief few minutes, but I thought it was fitting and appreciated that the NFL took the time out on such a large stage to pay its due respects for a true legend of the league.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • T3xassteelers

    I know it was a nice tribute and all.. But was anyone else getting anxiety from the wait??? Hahahah

  • capehouse

    This is why you wait for the pick to be announced in TV, instead of searching out for the not so breaking news. The buildup of the moment was incredible. Probably my favorite draft moment ever although hard to top the excitement levels from drafting Roethlisberger and Plaxico, and for me personally my all time favorite college player was Kordell Stewart so that was a huge moment too. This was on a whole different level though and to have our 2 Hall of Fame RBs out there to talk and announce the pick was awesome.

  • T3xassteelers

    Yup. I get off all internet till my streamed ESPN app on my Xbox One shows the pick. 🙂 I checked a few times before PIT.. The only pick I saw before I saw on TV were Tre White and John Ross. Otherwise I waited till just after they picked to see how the internets reacted

  • capehouse

    Yeah it’s really tough too because I love twitter. Love hearing all the opinions from the draft guys, but hate the spoilers. I usually wait for the pick then ump on twitter to see what’s said but guys were like 2 full picks ahead of the TV! It was ridiculous. I hopped on to read some analysis of the Bills Tre White pick, and guys were announcing the Cowboys and Browns picks and saying the Steelers were in the clock lol. Almost ruined it for me if I’d been a min or two later.

  • StrepxeitnA

    sent shivers down my spine. The NFL – in spite of Goodell’s follies– when to show deference and class to true legends. Even the mouthy Philly crowd was great during it. A true tribute to Rooney’s character and legacy.

  • Biggie

    Nice tribute to a great human being.

  • JohnB

    Was thrown off by it. I knew theyd honor him but not like that. Glad the crowd was respectful for the most part.

  • T3xassteelers

    Haha that’s exactly what I do too!! I honestly was kinda disappointed when I saw White go (wanted him), but forgot about Watt.. So I prefer Watt to White for me so I was happy 😀

  • 2winz

    I really wanted Ike Taylor to have been up there too, just so we could hear the story about Dan letting him sleep in his office one more time, it never gets old!

  • Steel-on-Target

    As I was watching Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris up there, I started to get this very sick feeling that Pittsburgh was going to “shock the world” with a 1st round running back selection.