PITTSBURGH — New Steelers general manager Omar Khan’s love of football came from his father, an Indian immigrant that embraced the sport after coming to America.
But growing up in New Orleans, Khan quickly learned that if he wanted to follow his boyhood dream of making it to the NFL, it was going to have to be as something other than a player.
“It’s a dream come true,” Khan said Friday at his introductory press conference. “When I was running around that football field and I realized I wasn’t as good of an athlete as everyone else on that field, I said, ‘I’d better change course and not try be an Archie Manning, but try to be Jim Finks, maybe.'”
Instead, Khan focused his efforts on the chief executive role, and after 26 seasons in the NFL, he achieved that dream on Friday, when he was announced as the Steelers’ general manager. He credited his parents for allowing him to pursue that dream.
“This day is as much for them,” he said. “They’re the ones that had to listen to an eight, nine, 10, 12, 14-year old kid tell them that he didn’t want to be a lawyer, he didn’t want to be an engineer, he didn’t want to be a doctor, a teacher, a policeman, a fireman. All he wanted to do was work in the National Football League, become a general manager and win a bunch of Super Bowls.”
It coming with the Pittsburgh Steelers was not always part of the plan, though. Khan grew up a Saints fan in New Orleans, attended Tulane University in the city and got his first break in the NFL with his hometown club as a player personnel intern and then was promoted to player personnel assistant. But in 2001, the Steelers and Kevin Colbert came calling with an opportunity that he couldn’t turn down.
“I never thought I’d be leaving New Orleans and then one day I got a call from the Steelers,” Khan said. “The opportunity to work for the Rooneys, I wasn’t going to pass it up. I came up here and interviewed and felt at home from the very beginning.”
Now Pittsburgh is Khan’s home. His wife, Kristen, grew up just south of Pittsburgh, his young daughters were born and raised here, and he is excited about the prospects of staying in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future.
“I love it here,” Khan said. “My wife is from Western Pa. My kids were born here. I’ve been here for 22 years. This is where I want to be. I’m a Western Pa. person now.”
But more than just Pittsburgh, the Steelers have become Khan’s family over the years. In his introductory press conference, he cited his relationships with former Steelers chairman Dan Rooney
“Him and I had such a special and unique relationship,” Khan said. “I learned so much from him. … The Rooney Family, especially Art and Mr. Rooney, they’ve taught me so much, not only about the game of football and the business of the NFL, but about life and being a person. The person you see today is who he is for having known the Rooney Family.”
While Khan is not from Pittsburgh, the Steelers are his football home, and given Kevin Colbert’s 22-year run as the previous general manager, he could be here for a long part of future.