Dan was a good high school football player, but rheumatic fever ended his hopes of a college career. He helped out at training camp during the summers until he finished studying accounting at Duquesne. Buddy Parker, then head coach of the Steelers, had no room for an owner's son on his staff, so Dan found work in the front office.
"I would get things ready for the draft and sign players," Dan says. "Buddy wasn't interested. In time, whenever there was a call from the league they called me."
Now, eight head coaches later, Dan at 40 is general manager and effective head of the 40-year-old Steelers. Last December that long downtrodden team won its first championship. Art Sr. was always the most popular NFL owner, but his teams always lost. In March the league's general managers voted Dan Executive of the Year.
"To get the same thrill out of Yonkers as we got out of the football team last year, Yonkers would have to do $10 million in one night," says Tim. All five of the boys have a financial stake in the team, and none of them suffers any less intensely than Dan. Furthermore, Art Jr., at 37 the second-eldest brother, has done a great deal to help Dan fill their father's football shoes. Artie is the largest of the Rooneys physically and the one who went furthest as a jock, having started at tackle for St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.
Artie, like Dan, holds the title of Steeler vice-president, but he looks like a line coach. He has more of his father's fleshy, raffish, cigar-chewing air than any of his brothers, and he takes the greatest delight in the stories about the old days in the First Ward, when Art Sr. and his brother Dan, a terrific athlete who is now a priest (and who is said to have spent some time protecting Chinese nuns with his fists), would become drawn into a three-rounder between the visiting carnival boxer and their friend, Squawker Mullen, and the carnies would holler, "Hey, Rube!" In the ensuing melee the tent would collapse and the disturbance rage on lumpily within the great folds of canvas. It is Artie who is most eager for a visitor to meet Uncle Jim Rooney, who after World War I served as one of the youngest men ever elected to the Pennsylvania legislature, and who went on to give away all the money he ever made to people who said they needed it more than he did. Uncle Jim can tell you about the figurehead legislator who replied, when asked what his position was on the Monroe Doctrine, "If the boys are for it, I'm for it." Upon being elected, this worthy showed up at the Pittsburgh train station with a ticket to Washington, D.C.
"Why are you going to Washington?" he was asked.
"Because I was just elected to the Congress," he replied.
"No, no," he was told. "The state legislature. You're supposed to go to Harrisburg."
"I'd say Artie had more to do with us [the Steelers] winning than anybody," says Tim. Artie heads a four-man scouting staff that moves around the country supplementing the services of Blesto VIII, the eight-team scouting cooperative to which the Steelers belong.
The Steeler drafts over the last few years have seemed inspired: Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Greene, Dwight White. When someone suggests that he may have inherited his father's handicapping gifts, in terms of ballplayers rather than horses, Artie looks pleased as Punch.