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Bleier's message: Believe in yourself

November 15, 2002|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

WARFORDSBURG, Pa. - For former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier, the most important lesson he learned in life didn't come from his experiences in Vietnam, where he became a decorated war hero.

Those lessons didn't come from his tenure as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 1970s dynasty that won four Super Bowls.

Bleier can trace his most valuable life lessons to the neighborhood football games he played on leaf-covered lawns as a nine year old growing up in Appleton, Wisc.

"I remember one Sunday I had an away game, which meant it was across the street at one of my friends' houses," Bleier said to more than 150 people gathered Thursday night in the Southern Fulton High School auditorium. "Problem was, my friend was sick that particular Sunday so I had to play that game by myself. I scored 51 touchdowns and rushed for 5,000 yards that day."

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Bleier related those experiences to the inner strength he had to call upon several times in his life.

"I learned that as you think, so shall you be," Bleier said. "Just because I wasn't playing against anybody didn't mean I wasn't the greatest running back in my neighborhood."

Detailed in his book, "Fighting Back," Bleier suffered a massive wound to his foot and right leg which made it virtually impossible to return to the ranks of a pro football player.

"I asked my doctor what my chances were of ever playing again," Bleier said. "He sort of laughed and said I needed to learn to walk again and that I had a great chance of being normal."

But Bleier wouldn't accept that.

"I thought to myself, 'I can't control what has happened to me, but I can control what will happen,'" Bleier said.

With that mind-set, Bleier not only made the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undersized blocking back, but he was part of the first backfield tandem in the National Football League to have both running backs over 1,000 yards in a season.

"I was too short, too slow and had two reconstructed legs," Bleier said. "But I believe your destiny is a matter of choice, not chance."

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