(Photo by Ron Schwane-Pool/Getty Images)
Bill Cowher grew up in Crafton, just 11 minutes from Three Rivers Stadium. And his football life concluded in Canton on Saturday night when he was the final member of the 2020 Centennial Class to deliver his speech and officially be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Cowher wrapped a bow on a great night of speeches, two of which came from former Steelers safeties Donnie Shell and Troy Polamalu.
"First thing I'd like to do is just say congratulations to my fellow enshrinees, and all the gold jackets on this stage tonight," Cowher said. "It's an honor to go in with each and every one of you. Your individual careers and journeys are remarkable and inspiring. But what a weekend for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is unbelievable to me to go into the Hall of Fame on the same weekend with two guys you drafted – Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca. Also, Donnie Shell and the late, great Bill Nunn. With the Pittsburgh Steelers on this stage, with the gold jackets on this stage, you guys set the standard and created the culture. It's our job to keep it going."
Cowher was born and raised in Pittsburgh, so he knew all about the Steelers and how much they meant to the city. It was a responsibility that he didn't take lightly.
"I came to Pittsburgh (as the coach of the Steelers) at the age of 34," Cowher said. "I knew of the tradition and the expectation of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hell, I grew up there, so I knew what Chuck Noll and his 1970s Steelers did in revitalizing the Pittsburgh area, but what I didn't know was how to work on the inside. Who were the Rooneys? Well, in my 15 years as a head coach, I grew in every aspect of my life. There was a visionary leader, who never missed a teaching moment and inspired those around him. The Rooney family core values were always about family, community, and just do the right thing. Isn't that what this Hall of Fame family is all about?"
In interviews before the enshrinement ceremony, Cowher mentioned that he was going to talk a lot about family during his speech, as that was a main principle of the Rooneys core values.
"When you're together for 15 years, a team becomes your family," Cowher said. "The game is about the players, and for all you guys who have played for me, I want to thank you for all your sacrifice, commitment, and trust. As a coach you ask people to trust, so what is trust? Trust is something as a coach, you have to earn. Trust is unconditional. But trust can be powerful. To each every one of you in whatever role you played, I want you to know you never went unappreciated. You are a reflection of our culture."
Cowher ended his speech by thinking about the people who helped him on his journey from Crafton to Canton who have passed on.
"In 2005, it was prior to our historic run as the first sixth seed to ever win a championship," Cowher said. "That Monday Dan Rooney came to see me and he gave me these: rosary beads. I said, 'Dan, I'm not Catholic.' Dan said to me without missing a beat, 'Coach, it doesn't matter. Every little bit helps.' Well, Dan, I still have (those rosary beads) today. To those who unfortunately are not with us: My parents, Laird and Dorothy; my wife, Kaye; Marty Schottenheimer; and Dan and Pat Rooney: You are here in spirit. I feel you. I love you and hope you're as proud of me as I am of you. Thank you, Steelers Nation."