Analysis

An inside look at my incomparable bond with Dan 'Papa' Rooney

I was born and raised in New Orleans, a city that celebrates a person's life after death with a second-line parade rather than gathering around a casket and mourning at a funeral. These gatherings feature brass bands, dancing in the street and folks decked out in brightly colored suits and hats.

So, let's cue the music for former Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan "Papa" Rooney, who died Thursday.

The relationship I had with Papa Rooney was summed up perfectly in this tweet by my NFL Network colleague Dave Dameshek:

I remember the first time I met Papa Rooney. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected me in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft. When I arrived at the facilities, I was met by head coach Bill Cowher, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and owners Art and Dan Rooney. We shook hands and the rest was history.

Papa Rooney was a father figure to me, and I often sought his advice throughout my 12 years with the Steelers. Yet most of the time, he taught me without saying anything. After a tiring practice early in my career, I fell asleep on the couch in his office. He picked up his things and headed to his son's office next door, letting me sleep. He always displayed this type of kindness.

The relationship Papa Rooney had with his players was rare. I never felt like just a player or employee. He genuinely cared about the well-being of myself and my family, and I kept in touch with him until his death. Papa Rooney showed me that love has no color and no price, as he treated everyone with respect and fairness.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity the Pittsburgh Steelers gave me to play in the National Football League. It led me to so many great people. I think it goes without saying that Papa Rooney sits at the top of my list, so let's give him the greatest second-line parade Pittsburgh's ever seen.

Follow Ike Taylor on Twitter @Ike_SwagginU.

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