Art Rooney II is part of a sporting dynasty. The current President and owner of thePittsburgh Steelers American football team, Art has presided over two Super Bowlchampionships, three Conference championships, eight Division championships,and 10 Play-offs appearances, since taking charge in 2003.

He’s also the grandson of ‘The Chief’, Art Rooney, who founded the Steelers in 1933, and son of former team

President, Dan Rooney, both of whom are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Between them the family have made the Pittsburgh Steelers one of the most successful NFL franchises in

history, currently tying with the New England Patriots for the most Super Bowl titles (6) and playing more

Conference championship games than any other team.

However Art Rooney II didn’t immediately follow in his family’s footsteps. After school he studied Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh and then went on to

complete his Law degree at Duquesne. During this time Art took the opportunity to study at Exeter, spending

the summer of ‘81 at the Streatham campus studying International Law and Business.

“I loved it!” said Art. “In fact, I would do it all again if I could!

“I came to Exeter in 1981, the year Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married, an event that was on everyone’s lips. I was familiar with London but it was good to see another side of the UK. The weather was sunny and warm, and the campus was a beautiful, green space to enjoy. It was great to have the opportunity to explore the city, which had a lot to offer, and to take trips into the countryside. I remember exploring villages in the local

area and taking longer trips to Plymouth and right down to Penzance.

“I was also there to study of course, and it was important to me to get exposure to international law. As well as

Business, I took a class in what was then called EEC Law and it was interesting to learn about the development of this transnational organisation prior to its evolution to the EU. Something that seems particularly topical now.”

On returning to the US Art pursued a law career focusing on corporate finance, sports law and government affairs. He continued to practice for the next two decades prior to moving into American football, and still holds an

Of Counsel position with the law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

“The time I spent in law was an important experience for me.” said Art. “You learn a great deal working in that

industry and the knowledge I gained still helps me now in the day-to-day running of the business.”

And that business is not just concerned with what happens on the field. Behind the scenes, the family have been strong advocates of equal rights, with the Steelers being the first club to hire both an African-American coach and a full-time female trainer.

This attitude has since led to the adoption of the so-called ‘Rooney Rule’ across the league, which requires at least

one ethnic minority candidate to be interviewed for any coaching position.

Art also set-up the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research, which supports continued research into brain injuries and the treatment of sports-related concussion. The Foundation is named after the team’s legendary former Head Coach whose commitment to his players wellbeing, helped to advance the understanding of concussion. There is now worldwide interest in this area of research, including at Exeter, where specialists have been looking into ways to improve safety and manage the impact of injuries following head trauma.

Of the Steelers’ successful history, Art said: “We have had a strong family ethos since the beginning of the franchise,

and that permeates throughout the organisation. There are no guarantees in sport but if you have the right people

and right attitude, you always have a chance of success. That approach comes from my father and grandfather before him, and I’m trying to carry it on.

“The team is a stable outfit (not only has it stayed within the same family for 86 years, there have only been three head coaches since 1969), with less turnover than other sides. Our philosophy is to keep it simple… not make things too complicated.

“We’re fortunate to have built a significant and very enthusiastic fan base. Our fans turn up in large numbers

wherever we go, be it over to California or down to Texas, and it makes a huge difference to team morale.”

The NFL may be the most popular sports series in the United States, and the most profitable of any around the

world, but it has yet to take off to the same extent in the UK. This could be set to change with a new academy in

London and talk of the first overseas team, plus a few British players are starting to appear in the line-ups.

Interest now extends beyond the professional game: the University’s own American football team, the Exeter

Demons, celebrated its 10th birthday in 2019, finishing second in the BUCS league and reaching the semi-finals of

the Cup.

Art said: “For the NFL, although it is sometimes difficult to promote a sport in a country where it is not widely

played, there has been good progress in building the fan base in the UK. We played in London in 2013 against the

Minnesota Vikings, and that was a great experience despite the result!

“We now have a player on our roster, Christian Scotland-Williamson, who grew up in Waltham Forest near

London. He played rugby for the Worcester Warriors before joining our practice squad in 2018. He is a big man:

6’9” and 274 pounds. He is playing tight end. When I first saw him as a rookie last year, I thought it would be a long

journey ahead of him but he has made amazing progress. He might make the starting roster next season.

“I hope the interest in NFL in the UK will continue to grow. And it is good to be back in touch with Exeter - I very much hope I can visit the campus in the not-too-distant future to see how much it has changed.”

Images courtesy of Karl Roser, Pittsburgh Steelers