Eddie DeBartolo 'A Football Life': TV Special Highlights NFL's Greatest Owner

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IOctober 24, 2012

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

When an NFL owner can count rings on five of his fingers, you know he did well.

NFL Network presented "Eddie DeBartolo: A Football Life" on Wednesday, highlighting the historic figure who owned the San Francisco 49ers during the franchise's glory years from 1977-2000.

DeBartolo's success as owner of one of the NFL's most storied franchises is unprecedented. Since taking over in '77, the 49ers claimed 13 division titles while reaching 10 NFC championship games and winning five Super Bowls.

Candlestick Park was also home to some of the NFL's most famous names during DeBartolo's reign, including Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Steve Young. That includes one of the greatest coaches in NFL history and mastermind of the West Coast offense, Bill Walsh.

Lott said in the special, via the San Jose Mercury News, “The greatest owner in professional sports history is Eddie DeBartolo.”

Rice added, “The 49ers were always first class and it was because of Eddie DeBartolo.”

But it wasn't just the success DeBartolo had that defined him; it was the passion he brought each and every day.

He said in the special, “Owning a football team is the dream of every red-blooded American." And that is what an owner should be; completely driven and excited to be in control of a professional sports franchise.

We've seen far too many owners cash in without giving back. Some value money over the game. DeBartolo was never like that, and he set a model for owners that should be followed to this day.

So as the 49ers icon gets set to potentially be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 2, remember that he symbolizes more than five Super Bowl victories—he symbolizes what an owner should ultimately look like.

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