Dealing with adversity: A lesson from the life of Rocky Bleier

by Jack Warren, host of the Top Coach podcast

I recently saw an ESPN feature in which they spoke with Hall of Fame football player Franco Harris of the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler teams from the 1970’s. Harris was asked about Rocky Bleier, his teammate on many of those teams and the fullback who helped to create many of those holes through which Harris ran. Harris said in the feature, “I wish the war would have never happened. But if we change anything, would the old man (Steelers owner Art Rooney) have put Rocky on the team? Would Rocky have worked as hard as he did?

Bleier was an all-state football player in Wisconsin and played his college ball at Notre Dame. After being drafted by the Steelers, Bleier played his rookie season and then was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam. It was in Vietnam, while out on a patrol, that he was hit by shrapnel, injuring his leg and losing part of his right foot. He was told he’d never play football again.

Returning to the U.S. and rejoining the Steelers, Bleier went on to be part of four Super Bowl winning teams. What he had to will himself through during rehabilitation is legendary. And that is what Franco Harris so pointedly talks about. Would Rocky Bleier have become the football player or the man he is today without the adversity through which he had to struggle?

We all have suffered setbacks of one kind or another. Far too often we become bitter, blaming others and bathing ourselves in self-pity. Others draw strength and inspiration to fight the next how. How do you approach adversity? Does it make you stronger?

Jack is available to speak to your team or organization or at your next function. He also provides individual and organizational coaching and consulting. You can get more information on these services at Jack’s professional services site,

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