Few players have overcome the obstacles that Rocky Bleier did to make it in the NFL. Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and a member of the 1966 University of Notre Dame Championship team, Rocky was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968. After his rookie season, he was drafted by the U.S. Army.
He volunteered for duty in South Vietnam and arrived in early 1969. Wounded by a bullet to the thigh and grenade shrapnel in his right leg (causing him to lose a part of his foot), he was told he would never play football again. While rehabbing in Tokyo from shrapnel and bullet wounds, Steelers founder Art Rooney sent him a letter . “Rock- the team’s not doing well. We need you. Art Rooney.”
After several surgeries, he went back to the Steelers in 1970 to workout. He couldn’t walk without being in pain, and weighed only 180 pounds. He was put on injured reserve for the 1970 season, but returned in 1971 and played on special teams. He spent several seasons trying to get increased playing time, and was waived on two occasions. But Bleier never gave up. By the summer of 1974 he was in shape and earned a starting position. Though Franco Harris was the featured back, Bleier still contributed to Pittsburgh’s powerful running game and gained 1,036 yards in 1976. His inspirational story, work ethic, and role playing were keys to the four Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl victories during his time there.
RetroCards has a couple of new cards featuring Rocky: two from 1979 (a Super Bowl XIII Highlight and a Unsung Heroes card, plus some other customs that never existed. Look for those in forthcoming Pittsburgh Steeler Retrocard team sets!