The sign above the exit to Notre Dame’s locker room reads “Play Like a Champion Today”. For some reason the story of Robert Patrick “Rocky” Bleier #20 for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been lost throughout the years, yet the Notre Dame mantra has never been more embodied.
The short version:
Dominate the running back position in Wisconsin High School Football. Go to Notre Dame. Win the 1966 National Championship and become Captain in 1967. Get drafted and play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968. Get drafted by the United States of America in 1968. VOLUNTEER for Vietnam. Get shot by a sniper bullet in the left thigh, then while already being shot, have a grenade land on you and fill your right leg with shrapnel. Receive the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Next move.
Try to walk again. Try to recover. Have the doctors tell you that you will never play football again. Receive a letter reading simply, “Rock – the team’s not doing well. We need you. Art Rooney”.
Decide that you get one chance at this whole “life” thing. Gain 35 lbs after getting released…TWICE, so that “some time in the future you didn’t have to ask yourself ‘what if?’”.
Work at walking again, work at running again, work at football again.
Suit up. Wrap yourself in pads, and your legs in endless amounts of tape. Wrap yourself in the colors of the city of Pittsburgh.
Win 4 Super Bowls.
Act as if it is no big deal.
Reprinted with author’s permission.