The city of Myrtle Beach has scored a touchdown in welcoming the grand marshal for its 2013 Memorial Day weekend parade.
Rocky Bleier, who won four Super Bowls as a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s, will cruise as the guest of honor for the parade. It steps off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Boulevard, heading southward from 27th Avenue North to Ninth Avenue North.
Drafted twice in 1968, first by the Steelers then by Uncle Sam, Bleier put his football career on hold, serving with the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War. Recovering from leg injuries from 1969 and awarded Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals, he worked his way back to play, making the Steelers’ roster in 1972, and his first start in the backfield in 1974.
Calling last week from Pittsburgh, where the Wisconsin native and University of Notre Dame graduate makes home, Bleier spoke about how taking the football field through 1980 helped him voice inner feelings from the battlefield.
Today, where you have Reserves or National Guard units called up, consisting mostly of people who live and grew up in the area, they know one another, and they go over and have a support mechanism, and they come back together, so there is some ability to be able to talk about that experience and somebody you can relate to.
You recognize those factors, and somewhat of an understanding of a soldier’s life, then it’s a step in the right direction and part of the healing process.
I came back to a high-profile career, and it became a story of whether or not I made it. It was a story from the beginning of “What was it like?” and “How do you feel?” I had to answer questions that were requested by other veterans. To some degree, it was a catharsis; it made me think about how I felt. ... so I could somehow put it to rest and get it off my chest. In that regard, it was a big catharsis and a big healing. The other thing was I was being recognized as a solider.
I worked at the local NBC station here after I retired. ... I found out what I couldn’t do; being a broadcaster wasn’t in my design, without the ability to ad lib and being able to express a story. It’s always amazing to watch broadcasters today, especially with as much as they say and as elegantly without “ahs” and “ums” to get their thought across. Look at Matt Lauer; I was watching him this morning; it’s like effortless discussion, and it’s not planned. ... Most of the quarterbacks; they understand the game both offensively and defensively, so that gives them a leg up. .. Of course, they were protected on the field by a line, and they wore a different color jersey in practices, and nobody touched them.
So we have a new era. ...You can’t treat this like you were coaching 20 years ago, with a new breed of player; Mike relates to that player. And even if he goes 8-8, it’s not a knee-jerk reaction that we need a change. ... Those things happen in the world of sports; you have to give them time. That’s kind of the best philosophy of the Steelers and the Rooneys: They’re not big, knee-jerk reaction kind of guys.