SPC Rocky Bleier: From Vietnam to the Super Bowl

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After a grenade injured both his legs and sent him home from Vietnam, Army Specialist Robert Patrick "Rocky" Bleier made a full recovery and went on to win four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh steelers.

In college, Bleier played for Notre Dame and was a part of the ‘66 National Championship team. He was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 16th round draft pick, but was drafted by the US Army after the 10th game of the season.

Bleier was sent to Vietnam, where he patrolled the Hiep Duc Valley as a grenadier. During a firefight, he was shot, and then a grenade exploded right by his feet. Bleier had this to say about being evacuated by a sister platoon:

“All of a sudden a fellow soldier reaches down and picks me up and throws me over his shoulder and starts carrying me to the helicopter. And the helicopter was still a far way away. And so he would put me down, my blood all over him and he'd catch his breath and pick me up again and continue on until he got me onto that chopper. And I never saw him again and didn't know who he was or where he came from, where he lived or anything. But the interesting thing was that he was a soldier of color. Now, it may not mean much now in that society, but at that time, back in the sixties. I mean, a lot of things were going on from a social basis. I mean, there was segregation still going on in colleges that would not let Black students be there or sign up. And so now all of a sudden, here it is, you have a Black soldier picking me up, not because he's Black and I'm white, but it was like brother to brother. And it was the immediacy of the time. And you don't think about race, you don't think about anything. And I think that's one of the great things about the military. It just levels the playing field for human beings to react with one another and as a fellow soldier. And so that was like we became brothers in that brotherhood of war.”

SPC Bleier earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service, and was sent home after his injury. Upon arrival in 1970, he returned to the Steelers, and began intense training in order to fully heal from his leg injuries. In 1974, he finally earned a spot in the starting backfield. Bleier would go on to win four Super Bowls with the Steelers, in 1975, 1976, 1979, and 1980.

To learn more about Bleier and his incredible football career, check out his book, Fighting Back.

You can follow him on Twitter at @RockyBleier.

This Veterans Day, consider donating to help veterans in need. The National Veterans Foundation provides assistance to veterans with needs including medical treatment, PTSD counseling, VA benefits advocacy, food, shelter, employment, training, legal aid, suicide intervention and more. Visit nvf.org to learn how you can help.

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