Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee understood how much the Rooney family meant to the city.
So being among the nominees for the Art Rooney Award that honors sportsmanship in the NFL carries a little extra meaning for Lee.
Lee was announced as the Cowboys nominee on Wednesday, as all 32 teams select a player for the award named in honor of the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“The Rooneys are great, obviously growing up in Pittsburgh they’re a legendary family, the Steelers are an unbelievable organization,” Lee said. “The way the Rooneys do things, they have a ton of class. Growing up in Pittsburgh, I think that’s the family everyone looked up to.”
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The award was introduced last year with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald being the first recipient. The winner will be determined by a vote of current NFL players after a panel of former players will select eight finalists, four from each conference.
The winner receives a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice.
“It’s a blessing to play in the NFL. It’s a blessing to play for the Cowboys,” Lee said. “Trying to do things the right way and play the right way on the field is extremely important.”
Lee joked about why he felt he was the Cowboys’ nominee, saying: “I don’t know. I think [my teammates] are just hyping me up a little bit.”
Lee has 79 tackles so far this season, along with a sack, six tackles for loss, four quarterback pressures and three passes defended.
The Cowboys host undefeated Carolina on Thanksgiving.