Roger Goodell: Dan Rooney was devoted to family, NFL


It's clear from the streaming expressions of praise and admiration for Dan Rooney that his influence on football will last as long as the NFL exists.

A day after the death of the 84-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers chairman, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on NFL Network's Good Morning Football that Rooney was a needed adviser to the past three NFL commissioners.

"He was someone so devoted to the National Football League on every level," Goodell said. "And I think devotion is the word to describe him. He was devoted to his family... extraordinary family man. He loved the NFL. Loved the Pittsburgh Steelers. Loved the community in Pittsburgh. He was such an extraordinary man, a student of the league, and someone who taught me a great deal about the history of the game, and saw it through some very difficult periods of time. (He had) key roles serving then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, and commissioner (Paul) Tagliabue, including in my time as commissioner, he's one of the people that I think all three of us relied on so much thinking through the difficult issues ... he was a voice of reason, a confidence that helped us all through a difficult period of time."

Rooney, champion of the diversity rule that bears his name, affected the NFL on and off the field for decades. Tagliabue, who also spoke on Good Morning Football, said the Rooney Rule has had a "enormous" impact on the league.

"The Rooney Rule is just one example of his interest in changing things for the better," Tagliabue said. "But in the labor relations, he was enormous for us for 30 years in making the system better, ultimately bringing in free agency with a salary cap, he was critical to that process."

Goodell echoed Tagliabue's sentiments on the impact Rooney made on the NFL during his life.

"I think as a Hall of Famer, he's at the top of the class in my book because of his influence on the game. As a person, you can't find a finer person," Goodell said.

The commissioner said that he spoke to Rooney "virtually every day" for the past two decades, and leaned on the Steelers owner to provide insight and guidance on a vast array of league issues.

"You couldn't ask for a better mentor than Dan Rooney on a professional level," Goodell said. "He had the insight, had the knowledge and he was willing to share it with you. That was an extraordinary experience for me and I am so grateful for that opportunity. On a personal level, he cared deeply about people, he cared deeply about his community. His level of devotion on every level, whether it was family, his faith, football, or Ireland -- that he loved so deeply -- his level of goodness is exceeded by no one in my opinion."