Remembering Veterans Day: Rock Bleier
Veterans Day is the day that we as Americans honor the men and women who sacrificed for our country. My two part story American heroes gave honor to Pat Tillman and Bob Kalsu, who both lost their lives fighting for their country. So as I continue to honor our American Veterans, I came across another American athlete who sacrificed for his country. Although Rock Bleier didn’t lose his life during the Vietnam war, he was seriously injured. He overcame his injury with hard work to become one of the most popular players in the National Football League.
Robert Patrick Bleier was born on March 5, 1946 in Appleton, Wisconsin. His father gave him the nickname Rocky when he was a baby and the name stuck. While attending Xavier High School he starred in football and basketball. As a football player he was a three-time All-State player as a running back and All-Conference linebacker and defensive back. After high school he attended the University of Notre Dame where he won a National Championship in 1966. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1968 with a degree in business management.
In 1968 the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Bleier with their last pick in the 16th round. After his rookie season he was drafted into the U.S. Army and volunteered for duty in the Vietnam War. On August 20, 1969 while on patrol Bleier was wounded in the thigh by a rifle bullet when his platoon was ambushed. While he was down and injured an enemy grenade landed nearby sending shrapnel into his lower right leg. While he was recovering in the hospital doctors told him he would never play football again.
A year after he was wounded Bleier reported to the Steelers training camp. It was a struggle for him to walk. He spent two years trying to regain a spot on the Steelers roster. After working diligently in the offseason he got his weight and strength back up to par. From that point on he would be a starter for the Steelers. he played on the first four Steelers Super Bowl teams. Bleier retired after 1980 season with 3,865 rushing yards, 136 receptions for 1,294 yards and 25 touchdowns.
He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. The football stadium at his high school was renamed Rocky Bleier Stadium on October 12, 2007. His high school number 23 is the only number retired in the school’s history.
November 11th is a day that all Americans should honor. We have to remember the Pat Tillmans, Bob Kalsu’s, Rocky Bleier’s and all other veterans that sacrificed so that we could be the land of the free.