Exclusive with Mexico Steelers Play by Play Announcer Fernando Von Rossum

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First,  tell us how you got started as a broadcaster for the Steelers?

Well, let me tell you a little story. My dad broadcasted NFL games more than 50 years ago. I followed in his footsteps. I started over 30 years ago – since I was in college. I was doing TV broadcasting and all of those other broadcasters got the chance to work with my dad, and I never had. So I got the rights to do radio broadcasting from the stadiums. Now we’re the only radio network from Mexico to broadcast from the stadium.

Why broadcast Steelers games?

I picked the Steelers because that was in the 70’s. They were the most famous team in Mexico then. Them, the Raiders, Cowboys and Dolphins. It came to the point that I had to make the decision on which team to broadcast for, and I chose the Steelers because they were my favorite team. Now, they are the number one fanbase in Mexico, according to the NFL!

How did you establish that relationship with the Steelers?

I started independently and we created some noise. Ed Bouchette from the Post-Gazette interviewed us, and it was strange he said because Pittsburgh doesn’t really have a big Spanish community. It may be the smallest of all the NFL teams.

Well, I started a relationship with Dan Rooney through the NFL, and one thing led to another. They called us their lucky charm because they were winning! We started fan clubs for the Steelers all over Mexico – first in my hometown Monterrey. We started all the tradition of fan clubs taking pictures of themselves a week before the season started.

How else do you work together?

After we had established that relationship with the Rooneys, about eight years ago we started doing football camps. We have current and retired Steelers players come down – Omar Kahn, who’s half-Hispanic  – helps us as well. We are the first team to do camps in Mexico. When the Steelers played here in Mexico City in the 90’s – the preseason game – we had over 90,000 fans see the game. The fans here are crazy and love the team.

The Rooneys are conservative. The second step was when they hired me as an official Spanish voice for games. I am happy doing what I love to do  and doing it for the team I also root for!

Any thoughts on whether an NFL team could launch and be successful in Mexico?

I know my dad talked to them about a team in Mexico  in the 70s and 80’s. Mexico is the first market for the NFL after America. It’s the second most popular sport in Mexico after soccer.

But, the market is different. It’s popular in Mexico, and the culture for football is strong since we’re like neighbors. We’ve had college teams playing football for years – the Monterrey tech college it one of the best college teams.

It’d be a dream to have a Mexico team. I don’t know if Mr Goodell would go for a team in Mexico. With the water and pollution, I’m not sure if the players and teams would want to be here.

Any good stories of your time covering the team?

I have several good stories. I remember going with my father to cover Super Bowl XXXII in Miami. On our way we had a stopover in Dallas and I told my dad I would love to meet Terry Bradshaw. Well we get on the next plane and there is Terry Bradshaw! It was very cool to meet him.

Later at the media day at the Super Bowl, we had a time for all of the international commentators to meet people. Terry was there and he looked at me and said “Hey, I know you!” Everyone was looking at me, like how did he know me!

I remember Troy Polamalu – he was a special player. He was always a gentleman. He was always nice during interviews. The kind of player he was on the field, was the kind of person he was off the field. He was always soft-spoken. I’ll never forget that.

And of course, Mr. Rooney. The relationship we had, I’ll always appreciate that. He helped create a foundation for this relationship for years. Now, you see Mexico flags at every game. I remember in the locker room, I was interviewing someone and someone walked by and hit me with his cane. It was Mr. Rooney – “How is my friend from Mexico?” he asked. The Media in Mexico called me the man in Mexico who knew him best. I thought about that and it is probably a true statement. We communicated and chatted  a lot.

The memory that shows him best is after we had a conversation about some activities in Mexico. He then picked up his suitcase and walked to his car. No bodyguards. No driver. His humbleness shows why they are one of the most respected families in the NFL.

What’s the next step for you and the relationship with the Steelers?

Well, right now I’m like Le’Veon Bell – I’m in the same position. It’s the first time in years I haven’t been with the team. The one thing that’s missing for me is to do play-by-play for the Steelers at a Super Bowl, and to get a Super Bowl ring like the team and the front office get. That would be it for me – then I could say goodbye.

Why are you not broadcasting now?

It’s a long story. We just haven’t come to terms yet. We’re close – it’ll take a month or two more probably. It’s out of my hands now – I hope it’s taken care of soon.

I feel honored by the way. Last year my play-by-play coverage was in the same team video with Al Michaels and Bill Hillgrove. It was for the team website. I was really  excited to see our efforts placed on the same levels as those from English TV. Some of our calls were in the top five of  English calls.

And, your also a pastor correct?

Eight years ago I started pasturing – now in Monterrey. The deal is, my wife is also a pastor, so when the NFL season comes I travel with the team and she takes care of the church.

Any last thoughts for  readers?

During the Jets playoff game at Heinz Field a few years ago, I was with my dad and that was the game with all of the field goals at the end – one where the Jets’ attempt bounced off of the goal post. I got so excited my dad told me to take a break – to splash water on my face! The game was so exciting and intense.

I had to start taking blood pressure pills before games last year because of all of the close games. I told Dan I almost died because of his players!

Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades To order, just click on the book:

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