By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor
The long-standing relationship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Saint Vincent College (SVC) needs no introduction to those familiar with either entity. For decades, one of the National Football League’s (NFL) most successful and iconic franchises has built a close relationship with the SVC community that goes beyond the hosting of summer training camps. The Rooney family, majority owners of the Steelers, have been benefactors of the college and part of SVC’s board of Directors. One of the most significant individuals in this relationship was Dan Rooney, the long-serving president of the Steelers and son of team founder Art Rooney.
On Sunday, Sept. 17, amidst Homecoming weekend, Saint Vincent President Fr. Paul Taylor hosted Jim Rooney for a conversation about his book A Different Way to Win: Dan Rooney's Story from the Super Bowl to the Rooney Rule. Attendees to the conversation were given a signed copy of the book, which was originally published in 2019. The book offers insight into the decisions Dan Rooney made during his career, including his efforts build the solid team culture of the Steelers, his role negotiating league decisions, and his time as Ambassador to Ireland.
On stage in Luparello Hall, Fr. Paul and Jim Rooney shared anecdotes from their personal relationship as well as stories mentioned in the book. One of Fr. Paul’s more notable stories offered a glimpse into Dan Rooney’s personal ideas about faith. On an extremely hot and humid day during training camp, Dr. Paul planned to attend the day’s practice in shorts and a T-shirt. However, Dan Rooney encouraged him to wear his habit, emphasizing that his presence in religious garb was an opportunity to show players and fans that it was okay to be friends with clergy. This story was a bridge to a more humorous account of the creation of a Nike Dri-Fit habit for Fr. Paul.
Early in his book, Jim Rooney suggests that there are often two types of biographies: “tell-alls” and “beatifications.” He explains that his book falls into the second category; however, the author does not appear to excessively praise his father. The book follows major events over Dan Rooney’s career, but lets the events unfold with or without him. Dan Rooney is always present, but not the center of every single significant event that occurs. This demonstrates both the author’s restraint and Dan Rooney’s lifetime role as a mediator and a moderator. In most situations, Dan Rooney sought a middle route between two seemingly irreconcilable paths.
A Different Way to Win is divided into four “stories” that chart Rooney’s impact in different avenues of his life. In the eyes of his son, Dan Rooney was a steward, architect, peacemaker, and had a strong vocation to champion the diversity rule that bears his name. The Rooney Rule, a policy requiring NFL teams to interview minority candidates for senior leadership positions, is perhaps Rooney’s most significant lasting impact. Still, Jim Rooney’s book indicates that Dan Rooney was a model leader who led by example and conversation rather than by being the strongest or loudest in the room. The stories of A Different Way to Win are an excellent read even for non-fans of football and support a leadership method that can be modeled by anyone.