After 23 years of traveling to two or three cities a week and
giving more than 90 speeches a year, Rocky Bleier has just one
gripe about his job: audiences who want him to amuse them with
football yarns from his four Super Bowl years with the Pittsburgh
Steelers. Bleier, a motivational speaker and a partner in two
wireless companies based in Pittsburgh, has not lost any passion
for sharing his story, made famous by his book, Fighting Back,
and a TV movie, but he wants his talks to remain focused on
particular themes. "I don't have light football stories about
what happened in the huddle or some stock sports story that fits
into my repertoire," says Bleier, 57. "My stories [about
football] are more evolved and wrapped around a point."
Bleier is well-known for his improbable comeback tale and
never-say-die attitude. A Vietnam veteran who was awarded the
Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, he overcame extensive leg
injuries suffered from sniper fire and a grenade to earn a spot
in the starting backfield of one of the NFL's greatest dynasties.
Bleier began making speaking appearances in 1970, when the team
volunteered him to schools looking for one of the Steelers to
give a talk. (He was on injured reserve at the time.) After he
retired in 1980, having gained 3,865 rushing yards over 11
seasons, he started Rocky Bleier Inc. to manage his speaking
engagements. Today he addresses all sorts of groups, from the Boy
Scouts to FORTUNE 500 companies. "I tailor my talks to their
needs," says Bleier. "Often I talk about what makes a company
successful, and I talk about it in relationship to football. I
address how you win, how you stay on top and the changes that
took place in football when free agency came into the marketplace
and all the parallels that can be drawn to that in business."
Bleier speaks from experience on both ends, having also been
active in the business world. After spending four years as a
sportscaster for Pittsburgh's NBC affiliate, ending in 1985, he
worked in several small ventures in addition to his speaking
engagements. Five years ago he and five business partners started
Wireless Development Group LLC, which works with carriers to
develop their networks. Six months ago he founded Nationwide
Wireless LLC, a company that integrates wireless technology.
While Bleier maintains a busy work schedule, his priority remains
his two young daughters, Elly, 5, and Rosie, 4, both of whom he
and his wife of eight years, Jan, adopted from Ukraine. (Bleier
also has a daughter, Samantha, 29, and a son, Adri, 27, from his
first marriage.) His speaking schedule is taxing, but Bleier is
driven by the hope that his story will continue motivating
others. "I look back and say I got a chance to fulfill a dream,"
he says. "I wasn't the tallest or the fastest player, but I
didn't give up. I persevered and the dream became a
reality." --Andrea Woo
COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. (COVER) PITTSBURGH HERO Bleier still lives in the Steel City.
COLOR PHOTO: ANNIE O'NEILL [See caption above]
A Vietnam vet who won four Super Bowl rings, Bleier is now a
motivational speaker and a partner in two wireless companies.