Late Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. was honored on Wednesday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of their “Hometown Hall of Famers,” a program done in conjunction with Allstate Insurance honoring Hall of Famers in the place where they got their start.
A plaque was unveiled in Rooney’s honor at Duquesne University, a school several generations of the Rooney family have attended, to serve as an inspiration for the school’s students and athletes. It’s the first college to receive a plaque, as Rooney’s former high school, Duquesne High School, no longer exists.
“This plaque is a piece of pro football history, honoring the community roots and the support the Rooney’s felt when they moved here,” said George Veras, President and CEO of Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises upon unveiling the plaque with Steelers President Art Rooney II.
The plaque will have a permanent home near Art Rooney Field on the school’s campus.
“It’s nice to have some recognition in the hometown,” said Art Rooney II, his grandson who accepted the honor on behalf of the family. “The Hall of Famers all have their busts in Canton, and that is special. But it’s great now they will have a piece of the Hall of Fame in their hometowns. It’s special to have something in Pittsburgh that represents his enshrinement in Canton (Ohio).”
Rooney purchased the Steelers in 1933 and was one of the founding fathers and most respected men in the National Football League. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964 for his contributions to developing not just the Steelers, but the NFL. He eventually turned a team that struggled into a four-time Super Bowl champion in the 1970s and played an active role in team operations until his passing in 1988.
“When my grandfather went into the Hall of Fame in 1964, I remember the event, but it wasn’t that big a deal, it wasn’t on television” said Rooney. “Things have changed. For something to come back to Pittsburgh to mark that occasion he would be proud to have the plaque here in Pittsburgh and some part of Canton be a part of the city. I think he would excited something would be coming back to Pittsburgh. He would be very happy about that.”
Rooney was not just respected, but also loved by players, coaches, staff and fans, and was affectionately known as “The Chief.” And for his grandson, following in the footsteps of what he accomplished is something that means a great deal.
“It’s pretty special,” said Rooney. “To be in the same shoes he filled a long time ago, it’s hard to describe what it means to me. To be able to be here today and represent him at something like this it’s a very special occasion and an honor I cherish.”
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