With J.J. Watt choosing Cardinals, Canadian Rooney brothers remain NFL’s only single-team sibling trio

Photo courtesy: J.J. Watt (@JJWatt)

Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt signed with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday after parting ways with the Houston Texans almost three weeks prior.

One of the teams Watt considered joining was the Pittsburgh Steelers, which would have allowed him to play alongside brothers T.J. and Derek. There have been many instances of siblings playing for the same NFL team — Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin, Matt and Ryan Kalil, Devin and Jason McCourty — but never more than two.

Or has there?

You have to go back almost a century to find them, but one set of three brothers has played for the same NFL team — Bill, Joe, and Cobb Rooney.

Bill appeared in 47 games from 1923 to 1929 with the Duluth Kelleys/Eskimos, New York Giants, Brooklyn Lions, and Chicago Cardinals. He scored three career touchdowns — one rushing and two receiving.

Joe dressed for 55 games from 1923 to 1928 with Duluth, the Rock Island Independents, and Pottsville Maroons. He caught seven career touchdown passes and recorded one pick-six.

Cobb played in 54 games from 1924 to 1930 with Duluth, Chicago, and the New York Yankees. He rushed for two career touchdowns and caught four scores.

The brothers played together in six games with Duluth in 1924 and eight games with Duluth in 1927, which is quite a legacy. What makes it even more remarkable is that two of the brothers were Canadian.

Bill was born in Hull, QC in 1896, while Joe was born in Saskatoon, SK in 1898. Cobb was born in Virginia, MN in 1900, which is located within 100 kilometres of the Canada-U.S. border. The Rooney family settled in the small Minnesota town permanently with all three boys attending Roosevelt High School.

The are no known photos of the Rooney brothers and images of Duluth’s NFL team are few and far between. The club was only active from 1923 to 1927 and has no connection to the modern Minnesota Vikings, which played their first game in the AFL in 1961.

Though the team for which they played is largely forgotten, the legacy of the three Rooney brothers lives on as a unique part of NFL and Canadian football history.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.