Rocky Bleier's life story - a gripping tale of courage on both the football fields of America and the battle fields of Vietnam - has held audiences in rapt attention for years. Yet, the motivational message behind it, detailing how ordinary people can become extraordinary achievers, defines success in the new American century.
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With the same optimism, sense of humor and steadfast determination that were his trademarks as a Pittsburgh Steelers running back, Rocky Bleier takes audiences from his early years through his professional career and talks about the lessons he learned along the way….lessons that we all can benefit from.
Not falling within the ideal of what a running back should look like, Bleier had to run harder and play smarter to be able to stand out. Despite his drive and ability to make the big play, the Pittsburgh Steelers only considered him a late round pick. But before the season ended that first year, he was drafted again…this time by the United States Army. At the height of the Vietnam War, Bleier was thrust into combat early and was seriously wounded when his platoon ran into an ambush. Receiving wounds from both rifle fire and grenade fragments in his legs, he was barely able to walk and his professional football career seemed to have ended before it began.
For more than two years, he drove himself. Little by little he overcame obstacles and fought his way back. He not only made the Pittsburgh Steelers, but also eventually became a starting running back on a team that won four Super Bowls and became the greatest football team of the 20th century.
The hard lessons Rocky Bleier learned early in his life that helped him overcome adversity and reach his goals, have paid off after football. Some of those lessons are seen between the lines in the popular book on his life, "Fighting Back," and an ABC-TV movie of the week by the same name. Rocky Bleier was not very big and not very fast, but he was an incredibly determined athlete when the Steelers picked him late in the 1968 draft. Before he could prove himself as a rookie, he was drafted again - this time, for combat duty in Vietnam.
A few months later, crippled by enemy rifle fire and grenade wounds in both legs, Bleier faced his biggest challenge. He could barely walk... he certainly couldn't run. To ever play professional football seemed impossible. But Rocky Bleier did the impossible.
The story of Bleier's agonizing two-year battle to overcome his injuries and return to the Pittsburgh Steelers is described in the book Fighting Back, and recreated in the 1980 ABC-TV movie of the same name. The rest of his exciting 12-year career is history... how he pressed on to become one of the Steelers' top leading ground gainers... how he passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in one season... how he contributed to four Super Bowl victories... how he consistently made the big play during important games with uncanny predictability.
Bleier's special qualities have been recognized by colleagues as well as others who have honored him with awards too numerous to list in detail. Among them are the Whizzer White Humanitarian Award, the Vince Lombardi Award, and the Most Courageous Athlete of the Decade Award. He was also chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of Year by the U.S. Jaycees.
Today, Rocky Bleier is in demand as a speaker, motivating audiences in a wide variety of organizations, corporations and universities. Bleier sees parallels between the challenges he faced in the past and the challenges all business people face in today's crowded, competitive marketplace. His speech, "Be the Best You Can Be" motivates audiences to keep on striving for greater accomplishments. He employs a dynamic style with real life stories and brings it together with a warm, self-reflective humor that audiences can relate to.
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