Thursday, April 13, 2017

Remembering Dan Rooney (1932-2017)

By Chris Willis, NFL Films

Dan Rooney at his 2000 Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction (Photo courtesy of Chris Willis)
I’ve worked at NFL Films for 21 years, and unfortunately, I never met Dan Rooney, although I was present in Canton, Ohio in 2000 to watch him get enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But that was the closest I ever came to meeting him. So it was a bit of surprise in June of 2015 when I received a phone call from Mr. Rooney. 

He wanted to talk to me about my book on Joe Carr, the former NFL President from 1921-1939, that was published in 2010. He told me he enjoyed reading my book on Carr and the NFL’s formative years—an era that included his father Art Rooney starting the Steelers. The reason for his call is that he wanted to know more about the letters I used in the book. He told me he was writing a book about the history of the NFL through letters. I thought it was a great project and agreed to help. A month later I emailed a few items I found for his book project. He was very grateful for my help.

When I heard the news today that Mr. Rooney had passed away at the age of 84 my initial reaction was to think back to our one phone conversation two years ago. It was a short twenty-minute conversation among millions for him. But for me it was twenty minutes I’ll always remember and cherish. We lost a bit of NFL history today. Rest in Peace Mr. Rooney, you will be missed.
Rooney in uniform. Colorizations by PFJ

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