Monday, May 28, 2007

True Grit | by Jay

I know Memorial Day is about honoring our fallen soldiers and sailors, but I'd like to take the opportunity mention a living veteran who was the recipient of a recent award. (It's also a great excuse to reprint one of my favorite ND football photos of all time, at right).

Former Notre Dame stalwart Rocky Bleier, who received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in Vietnam, was honored as the National Football Foundation's "Distinguished American" this month. This award is presented only on special occasions when an outstanding individual distinguishes himself.

Bleier starred as a halfback on the '66 National Championship team. He graduated in '68, and was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL draft, and played one year before Uncle Sam selected him for active duty in Vietnam.

On August 20, 1969, while on patrol, Bleier's platoon was ambushed and he was wounded in the left leg. A grenade then exploded and he was wounded in the right leg by shrapnel. He returned to the U.S., and while the Steelers kept him on the roster, he had trouble walking and played sparingly over the next three seasons. He persevered, and in 1974 he earned a starting spot, and would go on to help the Steelers win four Super Bowls. Today, Bleier is an author and motivational speaker, and resides in Pittsburgh.

For more on Bleier, check out Tom Pagna's stirring profile for Blue & Gold.