"Art Rooney is an iconic figure in NFL history. It is appropriate that we honor his legacy in this way and recognize NFL players for one of the important values that he represented so well," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"The Art Rooney Award is a special tribute to my father, who always believed in sportsmanship and fairness to everyone. This award is one our entire family will be proud to see, and we are grateful the NFL made this choice. There are so many outstanding players in the NFL community. We look forward to seeing who will receive the award each year," said Steelers Chairman and Art's son Dan Rooney.
"I think my grandfather would be a little uncomfortable with the idea of an award being named for him," says Steelers President Art Rooney II. "But I think he would appreciate that it is an award recognizing sportsmanship in the game of football, and that it honors a player who displays respect for the game and respect for the other players of the game. My grandfather cared about integrity in the game of football, and the recipient of this award should be proud his peers look at him in such a respectful manner."
The winner selected by the vote of the players will be announced at the "4th Annual NFL Honors" on Saturday, January 31 on NBC, the night before Super Bowl XLIX. He will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice. He also will be presented "The Art Rooney Trophy," which represents the important role that sportsmanship plays in the game and how NFL players that demonstrate integrity and honor on the field serve as role models for other players at all levels.
Art Rooney Sr. founded the Steelers in 1933 and was one of most respected men in the history of the National Football League. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964 for his contributions to developing the Steelers and the NFL. He turned the team into a four-time Super Bowl champion in the 1970s and played an active role in team operations until his death in 1988. Rooney was not just respected, but also loved by players, coaches, staff and fans. He was affectionately known as "The Chief."
The award was established this year and is determined by a vote of the NFL players. The award will be presented each year to an NFL player who demonstrates on the field the qualities of great sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for opponents, and integrity in competition.
Each NFL team nominated one player during the season. A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community selected from the 32 nominees eight finalists (four in the AFC; four in the NFC). The panel of Legends Coordinators was comprised of Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler.
The finalists, featuring four players from each conference, were linebacker Thomas Davis (Carolina), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona), linebacker Chad Greenway (Minnesota), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (Detroit), safety Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh), wide receiver-special teamer Matthew Slater (New England), quarterback Alex Smith (Kansas City) and defensive end DeMarcus Ware (Denver). Current players voted on the finalists on the 2015 Pro Bowl ballot on December 19.