Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fennelly: Tampa Bay, like many others, had a friend in Dan Rooney (w/ video)

Dan Rooney died Thursday. The Pittsburgh Steelers chairman helped make that franchise a six-time Super Bowl winner and a model of consistency. He helped grow the NFL, too. He was a voice of reason among NFL owners on a number of issues, including minority hiring. Football had a friend in Dan Rooney.

"Pittsburgh certainly did," said Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Bucs coach Tony Dungy said of the 84-year-old Rooney. "And just people in general. Dan was so much about doing the right thing and listening to people and making good decisions."

Dungy worked for Rooney — and head coach Chuck Noll — as a Steelers defensive back, part of a Super Bowl winner. He worked for Rooney as a defensive assistant when he was 25. He worked for Rooney as the youngest defensive coordinator in the NFL at the time. Dungy has never forgotten Rooney's kind, respectful touch.

"And I remember when I was coaching in Indianapolis and Jeff Saturday was our player rep," Dungy said. "Jeff would come back from contentious union-management meetings and he'd tell me, 'Man, I'm glad Dan Rooney is there. I don't know if we'd get this done if it wasn't for him.' "

In the 1970s, Rooney helped direct the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in six years and, with Noll, put together a historic 1974 draft class that produced Hall of Famers Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Mike Webster. Rooney was a Hall of Famer himself, enshrined in 2000.

And Rooney was important to Tampa Bay football. He headed the NFL expansion committee that approved Tampa Bay's application for a team that would become the Buccaneers in 1976. When Tampa Bay began bidding for Super Bowls, Rooney was often in its corner.

"I just had nothing but the highest admiration for the man," said Tampa businessman Leonard Levy, a longtime civic leader. "He had such integrity. Tampa had a friend in Dan Rooney. He embraced us. Any time Dan Rooney supported you, you had a chance."

In 2016, the Jackie Robinson Foundation honored Rooney with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He had earned it.

Dungy told a story that spoke to Rooney's open mind. It's from the late 1960s and begins with Bill Nunn, a highly respected sports writer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation's most influential African-American newspapers. Nunn had extensive knowledge of players at historically black colleges and universities.

"They hired Chuck (Noll), then Bill wrote an article that said we've got a new coach but it won't matter because we're so backwards getting players," Dungy said. "He wrote several articles slamming the team. 'They don't have any black players. They don't have any interest in black players.'

"Dan asked Bill would he mind coming to lunch. Bill had a hundred suggestions. So, Dan says, 'Well, it sounds like you might be the answer. Why don't you come work for us?' He talked Bill into leaving his job and coming to work for the Steelers as a scout. That's how it started: Mel Blount, Ernie Holmes, Glen Edwards (from St. Petersburg out of Florida A&M), Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, Frank Lewis, all those guys."

And there is the "Rooney Rule," created in 2003 and named for Rooney, then-chairman of the league's diversity committee. The rule requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior management jobs. The spirit of the rule isn't always followed, but Dungy said that doesn't diminish Rooney's vision: "What he doesn't get enough credit for, to me, is Dan standing up in the meeting and saying, 'C'mon, what are we doing? We need to do the right thing. Look at these (hiring) numbers. This isn't right.' "

Dungy said Rooney's humility never left him.

"I was there when (Pittsburgh) won Super Bowl XIII," Dungy said. "We had a new receptionist, and she started answering the phone, 'World champion Pittsburgh Steelers.' Someone had told her that might be a good thing to do. Dan was just like, 'No, we don't do that here. Just Pittsburgh Steelers. That'll be enough.' That's just the way Dan was."

Fennelly: Tampa Bay, like many others, had a friend in Dan Rooney (w/ video) 04/14/17 [Last modified: Monday, April 17, 2017 9:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    You wonder if the scouting reports and/or workload are catching up to rookie RHP Jake Faria. The bottom line wasn't bad again, three runs in 51/3 innings, but he's having to work harder to get there.

  3. Rays journal: Chris Archer eager for eventful final stretch

    The Heater

    TORONTO — RHP Chris Archer takes the mound today for the Rays as they head into the final 40 games of the season with little margin for error as they battle for an American League playoff spot.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) takes a moment on the mound in the second inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, August 6, 2017.
  4. Tim Tebow's slump continues, as does fan support

    Sports

    CLEARWATER — On July 29, playing against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Tim Tebow smacked a mammoth three-run homer, helping the St. Lucie Mets cruise to a 10-3 victory at Charlotte Sports Park.

    St. Lucie’s Tim Tebow, shown Monday at Spectrum Field, struggled at the plate Wednesday against the Threshers.
  5. Rays at Blue Jays, 4:07 p.m. Thursday

    The Heater

    Today: at Blue Jays

    4:07, Rogers Centre, Toronto

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Chris Archer (8-7, 3.84)

    JAYS: RH Chris Rowley (1-0, 1.69)