NEENAH, Wis. (WFRV) – From J.J. Watt and Joe Thomas in the modern era to Alan Ameche and “Crazy Legs” Elroy Hirsch in the early days of football, Wisconsin has had its share of sports stars who have become embedded into our football culture.
Rocky Bleier is part of that select group. On Thursday, Bleier hosted his first memorial “Rocky Bleier Veterans Village Golf Tournament” at Ridgeway Country Club, to help raise money and awareness for those who have served our country over a variety of eras.
“I think the biggest thing for me to be involved here, was Veteran’s Village and having the opportunity to have this exposure,” said Bleier. “I was so fortunate to get by playing with teams at Xavier, and then at Notre Dame, and then with the Steelers. Then going into the service and having those kinds of relationships, so the best way that I can possibly give back is to be able to lend my name and image to organizations like this. My role is to help Veterans Village get more exposure in this community and what it actually does is help veterans in the long run.”
Bleier’s football journey has taken him from Appleton to Indiana, and eventually Pennsylvania. But it was a detour to Vietnam after being drafted, that changed his life forever, something he tries to impress upon a generation of young athletes, who probably don’t know his story.
“I’d be surprised if they knew it (the younger generation), but I think part of that story is just about having support mechanisms and having friends that give you a chance. Coaches that have helped you along the way to get to some point, and then I suppose things that you learn from this community from your parents and not giving up. Having a goal, and trying to overcome obstacles of some nature, and ensure it that’s kind of the story. It’s the kind of a story that a lot of people have gone through and don’t get the recognition and have overcoming obstacles to do that. A lot of them are military personnel and their stories need to be told.”
Freedom high school had several members from their football team on hand to help out at the event, and their head coach knows how important it is for his players to listen and hear from someone like Bleier. “He’s a legend in so many ways and it’s great for our players to see and hear his message,” said Clint Kriewaldt. “As a former Pittsburgh Steeler, Bleier paved the way for what hard work and determination can do.”
The 4-time Super Bowl winner also realizes that his impact isn’t just limited to those who attend his alma maters, it is far greater on a much larger scale.
“It really takes in the whole valley. From Green Bay to all the way around and so on, because it’s a universal thing,” said Bleier. “Veterans are important because they touch all of our lives in one nature or another. Whether it be family, or relatives, or someone who has served. Even friends who have served throughout a certain period of time. That awareness becomes an important factor. And to have involvement like the football team, and everyone else who is here? It’s really terrific.
Bleier’s story is one that personifies overcoming adversity, and his message still rings true today, for just about anyone who wants to see success in life and beyond through hard work and perseverance.
“That’s basically the message. No matter what we may do in our lives, or how we got to wherever we are, it’s about not giving up and it’s having a belief in yourself. Wanting to achieve something that may be in your life that becomes important,” said Bleier. “Because there are all times in our lives when we come to a crossroads where we beat our head against the wall. Sometimes the grass looks greener on the side, or you might want to quit and you may want to give up or whatever might be. And so ultimately I guess the moral of the story is, if I would’ve quit somewhere along the line, I would’ve never gotten the opportunity to have the experiences I’ve had, or play on the teams that I’ve had. I wouldn’t be here talking to you today so, hopefully that message comes out to the younger players and students today, because you can control your life.”