Dan Rooney Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame
July 29, 2000
Joe Greene (presenter):
Thank you. I want to congratulate, Dave, Howie, Ronnie, and Joe, to our family.
When I first met Dan Rooney in the winter of 1969, which was my rookie year, I was young and cocky and aware of my great abilities. With my attributes in mind, I told Dan what I wanted to be paid. I said I wanted to be the highest paid defensive lineman in the NFL. Dan immediately informed me that I was confused. We were sitting across from one another at the table. When I told him how much I wanted to be paid, Dan replied in a loud voice “what! We can’t pay you that. That’s more than Merlin Olsen, Bob Lilly, and Alan Page are being paid. They’re all-pro, and you haven’t even played a down.” Thus our history began. Through 31 years of trust and respect, our relationship has transcended that of boss and player. Dan is a best friend. Here’s a man of great character and integrity. He loves and confesses God. He loves and cherishes his family. He loves the Steeler organization. He loves the fans in the City of Pittsburgh.
All of Dan’s decisions are very, very, difficult, but they’re based on faith. You can read about Dan’s devotion to God, his never ending love and respect for his father. His love and loyalty to his wife of 48 years. His love for his nine kids and his 14 grandchildren, and his love for his four brothers. You can read about the success of the Steeler organization. Its championships, the team’s competitiveness through three decades of changing dynamics in the business. You can read about Dan’s impact on the NFL Management Council, which demonstrates his depth and scope on many, many issues. Dan has always lead with humility. When things go as planned, Dan is in the background. When things don’t go as planned, he’s in the forefront. You can read about Dan’s altruism through his service and through his many charitable and civic organizations. But ladies and gentlemen, you cannot read about the great friendship and kindness Dan has shown me and my family. And I know many players who have similar stories.
When I was a young player, Dan often had to steer me in the right direction. In my youthful exuberance to win, I was in everybody’s business. I was always attempting to tell the coaches what plays to call, and telling the players how to play the game. I even had the nerve to tell Dan he needed to get a player signed. Finally, Dan called me to his office and he asked me “Joe, do you know what CYA means?” After explaining CYA, he sternly said “Joe, take care of Joe.”
I’m a professional football coach today because of Dan Rooney. In 1987 Dan agreed with Chuck Noll to hire me as a defensive line coach. When Chuck Noll retired, Dan invited me into the interview process to be head coach. Later, Dan told me that I was not going to be his head coach. I was disappointed, but I trusted his judgement. History has proven he made a good choice to lead this team.
Whenever I’ve had a special occasion in my life, the times you want your friends to share, Dan or a member of his family has been there. Dan and Pat flew to Dallas for my oldest son’s wedding. When he couldn’t be at my second son’s wedding, his son Dan was there. That means an awful lot. He has also included my family in important events in his life. Dan has not only exhibited kindness towards me, but has followed in his father’s footsteps. All the Steelers players are a part of his family. I am most honored and proud to represent the Rooney family, the Steelers organization, all the former players and coaches, the City of Pittsburgh, and the fans representing our boss and our friend to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dan Rooney.
Thank you, Joe. I really appreciate those remarks. Joe is always a champion.
Are the Pittsburgh’ers still here?
I too want to thank Canton for really being so kind and great to us. My family is here. They’re in this section, that’s about half of my family. They go back there. But there are many to thank, and I do so now. I’m not sure that anyone, beyond the league’s founders, who gave their time, their savings, their lives to establish the National Football League, should be in the Hall of Fame other than players. Today we had a group of players who brought this game to a new century. Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Dave Wilcox, all 49ers. And the Raider, Howie Long. They have been very kind to me. I congratulate them on this most deserved honor. I want to express my appreciation to those who got me to Canton, the Steelers fans of Pittsburgh and beyond. They are the best, I should say, you are the best fans in the world. Your support in good times and tough times has meant much to our success.
The media everywhere who kept the fire in the Steeler fans and the organization. Those who voted for me, I thank you all. Especially Ed Bouchette. The coaches who taught me more about the game than anyone. The Steeler players from the 30s to the present, good people, good friends, they played the game. Kiesling, Dudley, Stautner, Butler, John Henry, Layne.
Then came the best team that ever played, the 70 Steelers. There are times, though seldom, when everything comes together. When a group of young men become a special team. Where their accomplishments give them a time in history. Not only winning, but being the best, and doing so with unselfish determination to be the best team. Making the goal together. That happened in Pittsburgh. It was a glorious time.
Began in 1969 when Chuck Noll, a young coach, arrived with the ideals and commitment to be the best. And assembled players with similar desires and convinced them that the goal was possible. Not an easy task, but he never deviated and stuck to the basics. They began to believe that they could be the best. We are not here today to celebrate statistics, we are here to celebrate excellence and the accomplishment of people reaching a level, collectively, to be the best they could be. Men of character helping each other to reach the heights of human achievement.
The first player to be assembled was Joe Greene. A man of intense determination to win. I remember the end of Joe’s first year. Not a very successful season. Philadelphia had the lead and had just made a first down with less than two minutes to play. As the Eagles broke the huddle, Joe was so frustrated, he picked up the ball and threw it into the stands. Many of you remember that, I’m sure. He does. But I knew right then, that things were going to be okay. He went on to dominate opposing lines for a decade. To win games when things were not going okay. One game in Houston, to see if we could make the playoffs, Joe Greene completely crushed his side of the Oilers offensive line. We won a very tough game. Joe Greene, a real Steeler, is a person of integrity, whom I admire as a friend. I am privileged to have Joe present me to the Hall of Fame.
Later came Jack Lambert, who would not tolerate any less commitment than he had from anyone in the organization. Players, coaches, staff, and yes, presidents. In 1972, Franco Harris came to the Steelers. Before that time, we never won too often. After he came, we never lost. Franco is a very motivating player in a quiet way. He is probably the most caring individual player I ever met. But there are so many on those teams that brought victory. I could relate heroics on all of them, but time doesn’t permit. Remember Bradshaw, Ham, Russell, Webster, Blount, Rocky, Swann, Stallworth, Shell, L.C., White, Wagner, all of them. They all belong here, because they all deserve to be enshrined in Canton because they were the best of the best. Other teams at times had considered themselves as enemies of the rest. The Steelers respected everyone they played as a tribute to the game. The league had no better champion because they carried the banner with pride and dignity. They were different, different in play as well as conduct. Love for the game, the league. They were all proud of their differences.
Then our players of the eighties and nineties who were terrific Steelers and accomplished much success. Woodson, Lloyd, Hinkle, Kirkland, Dawson are just a few led by another special coach, Bill Cower.
The players and coaches made the Steelers, and I attribute my presence here today to all of them and to my father. My father, one of the early men who did everything to make the NFL succeed. It is special to join him here. He gave me the understanding of what the league meant. He gave me the commitment to do everything possible to keep it strong and viable. He with Halas, Marshall, Mara, Lambeau, Bidwill, Bell, Carr were the men who forged the league. I wish my parent were here. Mom ran everything in our family, and she would be very pleased.
Many of our family are here especially Patricia, my wife. She is the one who keeps me straight. She was there always. She wouldn’t let me fail. She’s my conscience, counselor, and critic. A thoughtful critic, even when I don’t want a critic. Without her, I sure wouldn’t be in Canton. Our children, Art, Pat, Rita, Dan, Duffy, John, Jim, and Joan are here. Our daughter Cathleen, who died, is with God, I believe she is here also. Our grandchildren, my children’s spouses, I should say, and our grandchildren. My brothers, nephews, nieces, the McGinleys are here as are the Steelers’ staff, those not in Dallas for the game tomorrow. I wish you would all stand up, the Steelers players who are here, my family, and everybody. Please stand up.
I have been very fortunate to have all the support and encouragement. I was in the league with those founders. I knew three commissioners personally. Pete Rozelle was a special friend. We worked on may issues. He was great. He brought the game to modern times. Bert Bell before him was a Steeler who put the television structure in place. And now Paul Tagliabue deals with the complexities of a modern sport. All good people who knew and did what was necessary in their time.
There are few men who are members of the Hall who gave me much. Their contribution to the NFL has been substantial. Wellington Mara, the integrity of the league. Tex Schramm, how to get things done for the good of the league. Use robber roles when they help, wing it when they don’t. Tex, we miss you. Lamar Hunt’s concern for the game. And thanks to all of our friends and owners. Jerry Richardson is there. Players who came here this morning. And I thank God for so many things that He has given me and our family. But as been said, this is a special time to be here. The new century. The return to Canton. All the important men of the game are here, and I thank you especially for making football the greatest sport in history.
Now I ask you to be watchful, see that the game remains the best. Strong, viable, flexible for the present day. No one can be more interested than youth, you have much to guide you. Your own commitment, how you played the game. The people in the league, players, coaches, owners, staff, and fans. Commissioner Tagliabue provides the leadership for football as America’s number one sport. Gene Upshaw, a Hall of Famer, is committed to the game and wants it to be the best. The television networks, our family, our players, you have my commitment to do whatever it takes. The National Football League, the game is your legacy. Protect it. Don’t let anyone tarnish it. God bless you and slainte (a Gaelic term which means cheers to your good health).