View Full Version : Bleier knows about not giving up

01-25-2009, 08:17 AM
Bleier knows about not giving up
Jan 25, 2009 - 04:05:06 CST
Bismarck Tribune

Rocky Bleier was in Bismarck on Saturday to talk to North Dakota National Guardsmen about overcoming obstacles, never giving up, and doing one's best.

If anyone is qualified to be an authority on those subjects it's the Vietnam veteran and former Pittsburgh Steelers running back.

Bleier, who played with Pittsburgh for 12 seasons, overcame tremendous obstacles to make the Steelers roster.

Wounded in both legs in 1969 while serving in Vietnam, Bleier battled back and went on to help the Steelers win four Super Bowls (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979) and become the National Football League's dynasty of the 1970s.

"After I got wounded, the thing that kept me going, that kept pushing me was the desire to play football again," said Bleier, who spoke to about 100 Guardsmen at the Comfort Inn. "Nobody gave me a chance. Some said I would never walk again. But I wouldn't let it stop me. I was determined to make it happen."

Bleier, who retired after the 1980 season, has used his experiences as a soldier and professional football player as the focal point of his motivational talks. Bleier has spoken to a variety of groups over the years, many of them related to the military.

"They're a group I can relate to. I understand what it's like to be in the military and what they go through before, during and after a tour of duty," said Bleier, who was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. "I was fortunate. I caught a bad break in Vietnam, but I was able to overcome that and do something that I always dreamed of doing."

Bleier's dream since childhood was to become a professional football player. After a stellar collegiate career at Notre Dame - which included a national championship in 1966 - Bleier was chosen by the Steelers in the 16th round of the 1968 NFL draft. He was then drafted into the U.S. Army in December of that year, and five months later was sent to Chu Lai, South Vietnam with the 196th American Division's Light Infantry Brigade. Three months later, he was wounded.

"I got hit in (the left thigh), and then some shrapnel (from a grenade) hit me in the other leg," Bleier said, pointing to an area above his right ankle. "It was a mess."

But it wasn't enough to keep Bleier from reporting back to the Steelers' training camp in 1970 - the team's first year under Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll. He spent the season on injured reserve, but continued to work out. In 1971 he made the taxi squad. The following season he made the Steelers' active roster.

"That was one of the greatest moments of my life," Bleier said. "I never gave up hope."

Bleier saw limited action in 1972 and 1973, but he earned a spot in the starting lineup in 1974. In 1976, he and teammate Franco Harris became one of only four running back tandems to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season. Bleier had a career-high 1,036 yards.

"We had to rely heavily on the run and our defense that year because (quarterback Terry) Bradshaw got hurt bad in the fifth game and missed the rest of the regular season," Bleier recalled. "I was given a great opportunity and I made the most of it."

The 1976 season saw the Steelers win their final nine regular-season games after a 1-4 start. They defeated the Baltimore Colts 40-14 in the AFC semifinals, but lost to the Oakland Raiders 24-7 in the title game the following week.

Still, Bleier said the 1976 campaign was one of the most satisfying the Steelers had in their dynasty decade.

"When you consider what we had to overcome and how far we came, yes that season was very satisfying," he said. "That team showed so much character."

The Steelers came a long way during Bleier's tenure. When he started with the franchise in 1968, it was an NFL laughing stock.

"At that time, they had lost for something like 38 years," he said. "Then Noll came along and things began to change. He brought a whole new attitude to the team. He laid down the foundation for tough, hard-hitting, aggressive, and winning football. The Steelers have never gotten away from that philosophy. That's why they're one of the best organizations in all of sports."

Bleier said the 2008 Steelers, who will face the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII Sunday, are much like the Steel Curtain teams of the 1970s.

"The thing that stands out most is they play great, hard-nosed defense," he said. "Their offense isn't as explosive as some of the good Pittsburgh teams of the past, but they find a way to get it done."

Bleier, who rushed for 3,865 yards in his NFL career, had the privilege of playing with nine Hall of Fame players - Bradshaw, Harris, center Mike Webster, receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, linebackers Jack Lambert and Jack Ham, defensive back Mel Blount and defensive lineman "Mean" Joe Greene.

"I am fortunate. I had the opportunity to play in the NFL and play with some of the greatest players," Bleier said. "It was a great time."

01-25-2009, 09:59 AM
Rocky Bleir is a American Hero and a Steelers Legend. I love this guy. He could inspire anyone.