COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Former Columbus Crew president and general manager Jamey Rootes, who guided the Columbus Crew through their first seasons in Major League Soccer, has died. He was 56.

In a Facebook post, Melissa Wildgen Rootes said her husband passed away Sunday after “a battle with mental health issues.”

Rootes was hired as club president on July 7, 1995 before the club was even named the Crew. He served as president and general manager for five seasons. The then NFL expansion Houston Texans hired Rootes as president in 2002. He remained with the Texans through 2020.

Under his leadership, the first MLS charter member opened Crew Stadium in 1999, which was the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States. His commitment, along with that of the club’s first owner Lamar Hunt, legitimized not only professional soccer in Ohio but the entire country.

“Jamey was best known for his devotion to his family and friends but was also former President of the Houston Texans, retiring in 2021,” Melissa Wildgen Rootes wrote. “Jamey was a dedicated Houstonian who loved his city and touched so many lives through his professional, academic and philanthropic work.”

Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said Rootes helped him learn about being a sports executive.

Many years ago as a young, season ticket holder, I once cold-called Jamey. I was fascinated with his role and career trajectory and was eager to learn about various tracks into the sports industry. He graciously took my call that day and offered his time and his wisdom. Over the years, I spoke to him on multiple occasions, and each time I was struck by his generosity and willingness to help. I am forever grateful for the insights he shared with me. It was something that, as an aspiring sports industry executive, remained impactful and memorable to me. I know my story is just one of many people who he mentored and was a role model over the years.

Tim Bezbatchenko