By FRANK SOJAK
JOHNSTOWN — Pittsburgh Steelers great and decorated Vietnam War veteran Rocky Bleier talked about the importance that athletics has in shaping lives and that if one doesn’t give up, any goal can be achieved.
Bleier was the keynote speaker at the premiere of the Blue and Gold Gala on Friday night at Pitt-Johns-town’s Sports Center. More than 300 people attended the event, designed to celebrate the achievements of the university’s athletic programs and to raise money for athletic scholarships.
Bleier’s motivational speech focused on not giving up and taking advantage of every opportunity.
He talked about how shortly after he was drafted by the Steelers, the Army drafted him. While serving during the Vietnam War, he was wounded. While recovering in a hospital, he was inspired by a fellow soldier who was wounded much more seriously than he, but still maintained a positive attitude.
While recovering, he asked his doctor if he would be able to play football again. The doctor told him that with the leg wounds he suffered, that was not possible.
Bleier said he was not going to give up and eventually earned a starting position in the Steelers’ backfield.
“We have two choices in life,” Bleier said. “One is to become the best we can be. The second is to be less.
“Why not make the right choice and reach our fullest potential.”
Kristen Kelly, a senior at Pitt-Johnstown and a member of the women’s soccer team, said she enjoyed Bleier’s speech.
She said it was nice to see the university start the gala to raise money for scholarships and will be supporting the event again next year.
Carmen DiLoreto of Davidsville said Bleier’s speech was inspirational.
Mike Corcetii of Murrysville and Mark Glova, both former wrestlers for Pitt-Johnstown, enjoyed Bleier’s speech.
Glova, a graduate of Cambria Heights High School, said it was nice to hear a motivational speech from such an icon.
Kevin Grady, university police chief, said Bleier endured plenty of hardships in life but with unending desire was able to go on to win four Super Bowls.
Cambria County Commissioner Bill Harris said Bleier’s story was honest, real and full of determination.
University President Jem Spectar said Bleier was phenomenal.
Bleier’s speech was moving and inspirational, he said.