Folks in Latrobe, home of Steelers training camp, recall Rooney's humility
Every summer for more than 50 years, tens of thousands of Steelers fans have swarmed into Latrobe for the team's training camp, which has left local businesses grateful to the late Dan Rooney and his family.
“Not to see him at training camp, it'll be sad because of all he's done for the team, the league and this town,” said John Huemme, owner of Sharky's Cafe on Route 30.
Rooney, who died Thursday at 84, was usually there for training camp — his decades-long streak ended when President Obama appointed him ambassador to Ireland — and members of his family would stop by the restaurant and buy the Steelers' staff lunch, Huemme said.
Rooney appeared to have instilled in them the same humility he was known for.
“The whole family's like that. You wouldn't even know unless somebody told you, ‘That's a Rooney,'” Huemme said.
The training camp at St. Vincent began under Rooney's father, Art, and continues with his son, Art II. Estimates of attendance ranged from 50,000 to more than 100,000 fans coming to Latrobe, depending on the source, giving the small town of just of 8,000 residents and its businesses a boost.
“There's always stupid rumors out there (that camp will move), but I think people believe that as long as there's a Rooney in charge, it won't change.” Huemme said.
“Art and Dan, they personified Pittsburgh,” said Ken Roadman, 73, of Mt. Pleasant, as he stopped for lunch in Latrobe. “Now my question is, will his family continue that dynasty? It's a void right now, and a lot of people are wondering who's going to step into that void.”
Spokesman Don Orlando said for the three weeks of camp, St. Vincent hosts players in Rooney Hall while fans eagerly await when practice opens to the public in the afternoon. The college adds about 50 seasonal employees to its regular 75-member food services staff to cook for the players and sell food to the fans. The campus bookstore sells Steelers merchandise alongside its usual books and college-branded clothing.
“(Rooney) established strong standards for the team. He made the Steelers something special as a franchise,” said Bill Boxx, 63, a Unity resident and CEO of the Philip M. McKenna Foundation, as he ate lunch at the Touchdown Club II farther up Route 30. “He was very important to the college and to the community.”
Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.