An invitation from another storied franchise proved to be a great experience for me and Margaret as we travelled around America on our gridiron journey. A former Packer player, Swede Johnson, received an offer from the Steelers head coach, Walt Kiesling in 1940 for $135 per game and of course the legendary Johnny Blood coached and played in Pittsburgh for the Pirates so there are plenty of connections between the Steelers and the Packers.
Dan Rooney kindly invited us to spend a day at Three Rivers Stadium and so we flew from Dallas/Fort Worth to keep this much anticipated invitation. We stayed in Pittsburgh with a friend, Marcy Hannah, who along with her husband had been lifelong Pittsburgh supporters and for many years were season ticket holders.
Arriving at reception we introduced ourselves and waited for Mr Rooney, me clad in green and gold but at the suggestion of Ray Nitschke, wearing a Steelers cap. Ray and Art Rooney had become firm friends over many years and whenever they met they would sit and smoke cigars as Art is doing in the photograph.
Dan Rooney soon arrived and made us all feel very welcome, appreciating Ray’s suggestion of wearing the Steelers cap. We toured the museum and other parts of the complex chatting about the history of the National Football League and the struggles in the early years that all the franchises went through. Dan said that his father Art was rightly quoted as saying “the biggest thrill wasn’t in winning on Sundays, but in meeting the payroll on Monday”.
“Would you like to have lunch with the players” was Dan’s enquiry and we were thrilled to accept such an invitation particularly Marcy who couldn’t believe what was happening to her. Following lunch after an interval we were then invited to go down on the field and watch practice. As we were standing on the sidelines Bill Cowher stopped the practice and sent one of his assistant coaches to ask, “Who is the guy in the Green Bay Packer jacket and why is he watching a Steelers practice?”
I told him that we were guests of Mr Rooney and after passing that message on to Bill Cowher the practice continued unabated.
Sometime later I received a letter from Bill and he remembered the time his practice had been held up as can be seen in the letter attached.
After spending a wonderful two days in Pittsburgh we flew to Minneapolis to take in a Vikings game against the Packers but more on that later.