Art Rooney, Sr. founded the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1933 and during his six decades running the franchise established himself as one of most respected men in the history of the National Football League. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964. He built the Steelers into a four-time Super Bowl champion in the 1970s and played an active role in team operations until his death in 1988. Rooney was not just respected, but was also loved by players, coaches, staff and fans. He was affectionately known as “The Chief.”
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The National Football League has announced that it will name its annual award recognizing outstanding sportsmanship on the playing field in honor of the Hall of Fame owner Art Rooney, Sr.
“Art Rooney is an iconic figure in NFL history. It is appropriate that we honor his legacy in this way and recognize NFL players for one of the important values that he represented so well,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The award is newly established this year and is determined by a vote of NFL players. The award will be presented each year moving forward to an NFL player who demonstrates on the field the qualities of great sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for opponents, and integrity in competition.
“The Art Rooney Award is a special tribute to my father, who always believed in sportsmanship and fairness to everyone. This award is one our entire family will be proud to see, and we are grateful the NFL made this choice. There are so many outstanding players in the NFL community. We look forward to seeing who will receive the award each year,” said Steelers Chairman and Gold Jacket Dan Rooney.
Each NFL team nominated one player during the season. A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community selected from the 32 nominees eight finalists (four in the AFC; four in the NFC). The panel of Legends Coordinators was comprised of Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler.
The finalists, featuring four players from each conference, were linebacker Thomas Davis (Carolina), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona), linebacker Chad Greenway (Minnesota), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (Detroit), safety Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh), wide receiver-special teamer Matthew Slater (New England), quarterback Alex Smith (Kansas City) and defensive end DeMarcus Ware (Denver).