David DeCastro is the Steelers nominee for the fifth annual Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, presented to a player for his outstanding sportsmanship on the field, including fair play, respect for the game, and integrity in competition.
“He just does it the right way,” said Maurkice Pouncey. “He shows up for work, he doesn’t talk that much, and when he does you listen. He plays the right way. He isn’t dirty at all. He just likes being physical playing football. To have him around, and the things he does and the way he is, he makes football fun and easy. He earns respect from opponents for the way he plays the game. Everybody loves him.”
The award was created in 2014 to honor Art Rooney Sr., the founder of the Steelers and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Art Rooney is an iconic figure in NFL history,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the time the award was introduced. “It is appropriate that we honor his legacy in this way and recognize NFL players for one of the important values that Mr. Rooney represented so well.”
DeCastro continually provides an example for younger players to follow for his dedication, determination, work ethic and the way he plays with integrity. It’s something his teammates notice, and can’t say enough good things about him.
“David has a very special relationship with football. It’s very unique. It’s a romance,” said Alejandro Villanueva. “He always tells me about the first time he played football and he quit in seventh or eighth grade because he didn’t like it. He came back to it his junior year and started doing very well. He never thought he would play in the NFL, but knew Stanford was a great university that would open a lot of doors in his life. He realized the potential he had to play in the NFL, and he has had a great approach. He never takes anything for granted. He is always taking care of the details. He plays to not let his teammates down and be a part of something bigger than himself. He likes being one of the guys.
“He doesn’t feel anything negative towards his opponent. He knows it’s not personal. He respects every single offensive lineman in the NFL. He has great relationships with the guys he looks up to, guys he respects and watches. The same thing with guys he goes against. He has so much respect for Geno Atkins. He talks about how he watches his game and compliments him all of the time when he watches him. Same thing with Aaron Donald, who trains here in the offseason. He has respect for opponents and that rubs off on the rest of us. He is someone who is good for the game. He respects players for who they are, not for what they are supposed to do.
“For younger players he is a role model because he is always doing the right thing. He never says anything out of line. He doesn’t do any of the things coach tells us not to do. He is the perfect Steelers player. He does everything right. If you are wondering how you should approach your career, take care of your body, treat others, face challenges, you just look at what David is doing. He always has a very intelligent and well thought out plan on how to accomplish any challenges that come up in your career.”
One player from every team was nominated for the award, and eight finalists, four in each conference, will be selected by members of the NFL Legends Community, including Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler.
Current players will have the final say, with them voting on the winner from the eight finalists, although they can’t vote for their teammate. The winner is announced during the NFL Honors show the night before Super Bowl LIII.
The winner will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice and the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Trophy, which represents the key role sportsmanship plays in the game and how NFL players who demonstrate integrity and honor on the field serve as role models.
“It is gratifying that sportsmanship is the category,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II when the award was announced in 2014. “It’s appropriate. I like to think of my grandfather as someone who truly was a good sport, somebody who cared about the respect and the integrity of the game. The fact it’s being voted on by the players, well, the recipient can feel good about it because it’s voted on by his peers.”