Ever wonder how different the NFL was in the ’60s and ’70s? Super Bowl Champion and wounded Vietnam vet, Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier shares an unlikely story of success after war.
Growing up north of Pittsburgh, Rocky Bleier was a household name in my home.
I had always known about his story as a great running back and as a wounded combat veteran but I never knew the story behind the story until this interview.
Rocky’s story is a gripping tale of courage on both the gridiron and the battlefields of Vietnam. His life story details how ordinary people can become extraordinary achievers, which defines success in the new American century.
The hard lessons Rocky learned early in his life that helped him overcome adversity and reach his goals have paid off after football. Truly, he’s an epitome of a success through failure story.
Get to know the real Rocky Bleier behind his legendary NFL fame— through success, failure, and everything in between. Tune in now!
If you don’t have time to listen to the entire episode or if you hear something that you like but don’t have time to write it down, be sure to grab your free copy of the Action Plan from this episode— as well as get access to action plans from EVERY episode— at JimHarshawJr.com/Action.
[00:00] We all fail. We fail at different things, and as I look back on those failures in my life, they've been teaching lessons or learning lessons about yourself and redefining of what you want or how you see yourself or where you want to go, and what becomes important in your life. Welcome to another episode of Success Through Failure.
[00:23] This is your host, Jim Harshaw, Jr. and today I bring you Rocky Bleier. Now, if you've never heard of Rocky Bli. He was a household name in my home when I grew up. I grew up north of Pittsburgh. I'm a country boy. Grew up on about 10 acres of land, but I always do tell people I grew up in Pittsburgh, but it was about a half an hour north of Pittsburgh and I was born in 1976, which was the heyday of the Pittsburgh Steelers after they were a terrible, the worst, losing it.
[00:50] Franchise in the NFL. Prior to that, and Rocky Bleier was a household name. Now, I had always known about his story. He played for the Steelers. He was a great running back and I knew that he went to Vietnam and he was a wounded combat veteran. I never knew the story behind it until today. You're gonna hear a story.
[01:12] That is both packed with wisdom and absolutely entertaining to listen to. I mean, he's an amazing storyteller and boy, what a story you're about to hear right now. This is a true success through failure, success through adversity story, and it's told by a guy who's lived through it in so many different facets of his.
[01:35] Now I'm releasing this episode in the middle of the NFL season. If you know a friend who's a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, tell them to listen to this episode. Or if you know anybody who loves the NFL, loves professional football, this is an absolutely incredible look into the NFL. Back in the 1960s and the 1970s and how much different it is today as compared to what it was back then.
[02:02] Okay. Let's get into it by interview with Rocky Bleier. Let's just take it from the beginning. You were drafted in the 16th round out of Notre Dame, 417th. Overall in 1968. What was your reaction to that? Did you expect to go higher? Did you expect to go lower? What were your thoughts? I didn't have any expectations.
[02:24] In all honesty, did I want to get drafted by the NFL? Yes, I did. And I thought maybe I could play. And it wasn't until my junior year at the University of Notre Dame did I think that I could possibly play, and that was the year that we had won the national championship and so was the caliber of the opponents that we had that I could compete against.
[02:45] And, uh, I do remember going to a, a football game with my dad. Just during that period of time up in Green Bay. And so they happened to be playing the Steelers that afternoon. Not that there's any correlation, but it would just happen to be playing the Steelers. And so I got the program and you know, I was looking through the program and I thought, Hmm, is there anybody.
[03:06] Like my size playing in the NFL. So you know, I stretched the imagination five 10, you know, about 190 pounds or 195 pounds in that thing. And so all of a sudden, yeah, there was a guy by the name of Jim “Cannon Ball” Butler. Who you should remember, who had played during the in the Steelers during that period of time, in the early part of the sixties, but he was my size.
[03:32] Now, the one thing that he had I didn't have, which was speed, but anyway, so it gave me a mindset that, that I possibly could. Now, I was not an All-American at Notre Dame. I was not the leading ball carrier. I was a part of a team and got a chance to play some of my sophomore year into my junior and uh, and senior year.
[03:54] And also when the draft came. And I should probably share this, unlike today, uh, where we have a plethora of information on everybody that's available for the draft that did not exist back then. And so I got a form letter, basically was a form letter and I had to fill it out. And the questions were, if we draft you, Would you play for us Then?
[04:21] Uh, position running back school, Notre Dame Height, five 10 wait 190 pounds. And uh, and, and then they had the 40-yard dash. The 40-yard dash. Well, we know today. I mean, everybody has a 40 time of some nature and, and it becomes a mark, you know, Well, he runs 40 in this kind of speed, that kind of speed.
[04:49] Defensive lineman, offensive lineman, and that becomes a thing. Well, we didn't run the 40 back then. I mean the 40 time, in all honesty, even in college, we didn't have a 40. So I thought, well, I have to fill it out because that's part of my responsibility, 40 time. So I thought, Okay, fine. The best time I had was in high school for the hundred yard.
[05:13] The best time ever. I mean, best time it usually was once I did it once. 10 flats. Okay. Once I, I'm telling you once, so I thought, Oh, okay, fine. You're a pretty smart guy. Let's extrapolate. Okay, that's a hundred yards, 10 flat, 50 yards. Okay, It's five. Let's say five seconds. Okay, but this is 40 yards, so you have a.
[05:34] Four, three . That's what I put down. That's not ever, But anyway, for the listener, that's, if you don't know, a 4’ 3” is maybe unheard of. I don't know. No, we got some guys out there today that in the NFL run 4’ 3”, 4’ 2”. So it's very elite. You're four three, you're, Yeah, you're really fast. Anyway, so, you know, the draft came, so it was a three-day draft.
[06:00] They had 17 rounds. So the first round was Friday, second round was Saturday, and then the third round to wrap it up had taken place on Sunday. I, I knew I wasn't gonna go in the first three or four or five, you know, I didn't have those kind of credentials, although we had a successful team and organization, and then some of my teammates got drafted within the eighth, ninth.
[06:22] You. 10th round, somewhere around there. Anyway, I hadn't heard anything. Was the draft at that time publicized at all? Obviously now it's on TV and you see the guys and you, it wasn't as much at that time, so you got, uh, usually on the sports news. On the sports, it would say, I don't think there was a program specifically dialed into that draft.
[06:48] This is the impact of the draft. It was Sunday night, so we went out to dinner, the golf club came back to their house and were having some after dinner drinks. And so we're sitting around and we're talking about the spring. We're just talking about, and not necessarily the draft, you know, what, what are you gonna do after you leave, you know, school?
[07:08] That kind of just general discussion when the news comes on at 10 o'clock. We were in South Bend at the time and the sports and all of a sudden the sports, Oh, today, In the NFL draft, three local players were selected, so and so who went to Purdue. So and so went to Indiana and uh, the Notre Dame Captain Bob Rocky Bleier drafted number 16th by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
[07:33] There was a pause. They said, Hey, Congratulations. Anyway, so what are we gonna do for spring break? What are we gonna go on? So that was my celebration now. So the question was my expectations. I was just happy to be drafted, really, You know? And I suppose they're part of me that would've liked to have been a little higher draft, but you know, who knows?
[07:59] And so I was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 16th. The then lowly Pittsburgh Steelers, they're losing his team in the NFL for the first 40 years of uh, DU existence. Yeah. Wow. People say, Well, you know, How'd you make the team back then? Well, I always like to tell 'em, Do you remember who played for the Steelers in the sixties?
[08:22] That's how come I made the team. Cause nobody played for him during that period of time. So you make through your rookie season and another kind of draft, Comes along. What was going through your mind when you found out that you were being drafted into the military? Well, what you have to understand is during that period of time, the draft loomed greatly over everybody or the male population, uh, especially at that age category.
[08:47] So I got a student deferment to play football at at Notre Dame and go to college, and now I got drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. That deferment was coming up, so my expectations, and I really didn't have it. I mean, I was focused on going to camp. I was focused on the Steelers and whatever it took. Now I just have to listener understand is that when I left home to come to.
[09:15] Pittsburgh, I packed everything I had with me knowing that if I don't make this team, I'm going to Florida. So everything I had was in my car, so I'm going to Florida, whatever my life goes thereafter, but, you know, whatever. So anyway, I come to Pittsburgh and go through two through training camp until you become focused.
[09:37] I, I'm not really worried about, Somewhere in the back of my mind is that, well, if you kind of make this team, and my only input was from the Packers, so I know that those players would be in the Army Reserve and they'd go to reserve meetings cuz it would be in the local paper up in Wisconsin. So there was kind in my back of my mind.
[10:00] Well I guess that kind of works out whatever, they'll take care of this. So last day of training camp or towards the end of training. Bill Austin was the head coach for the Steelers at that time, and I was walking out of a meeting and he pulled me aside and he said, No, listen, Rocky said we got this letter in the mail and it was opened accidentally and it was my one, a classification to be eligible for the draft.
[10:26] And he said, We think you're good enough to make this team and we'll take care of this for you. Whatever taking care of this meant, you know? Oh. But in my mind it was like, Oh, okay, fine. Like everybody else that I knew up in Green Bay, you know, they're in the reserve, so they'll take care of that. And so time goes on and now September and it's like in October, and I haven't heard anything.
[10:55] You know, and I don't know how much time I have in this regards. And so I went and asked the Steelers if they heard anything and they go, Well, we have a little problem. The congressman got defeated, the general retired, all our contacts are out of the order, but we're working on it. And so ultimately, like everything else, I fell through the cracks and all of a sudden we're going to practice and.
[11:24] I get a letter, fan letter. I don't know if it's fan letter. I open it up and said the readings we'd like to inform you, you were inducted into the armed services of your country. Now, the induction date was the next morning to report the A station in Pittsburgh at 7:00 AM to be inducted. They're supposed to give you a week in notice, you know, so it was post-dated a week before.
[11:49] And so by the time I got it through the mail, I was to report the next day. You know, now your head spinning, what's gonna happen here? And they gave me 24 hours to get my stuff together and ultimately I was gone. For me, to some degree, it was like everything else. Now, all of a sudden, your focus just changed.
[12:09] If I sat around waiting or, and I sat around thinking about this, it might have been worse, I don't know. But at this moment now you're just in reaction mode. You know, I gotta call my parents, I gotta take care of my apartment, I gotta get rid of my car, I gotta pack my clothes, send them home, whatever it is, and because I'm gonna be gone, I, I pack what they tell me to pack.
[12:32] And I'm gone. You know, so I, I report the day thereafter to be inducted and, and I'm off to basic training . And so in on that mode, it was like, okay, fine. So that just became the focus. Now this is whatever that experience is and so on. You're just like everybody else and you're going through, uh, Basic training and then you get your orders to go to advanced infantry training and you know, so that's a period of time.
[12:58] So I didn't really have a, an opportunity to worry about it or an opportunity to, you know, see what's gonna do. And to some degree, for me at least, it was kind of a saving grace. Yeah. You just have to pull Bandit off and take. Quick interruption. Hey, if you like what you're hearing, be sure to get the notes, quotes, and links in the action plan from this episode.
[13:20] Just go to JimHarshawJr.com/action. That's JimHarshawJr.com/action to get your free copy of the action plan. Now, back to the show. And so five months later you get shipped off to Vietnam, and on August 20th, 1969, your life changed. Can you take us to that day? What happened in that area? Just for those who made not understand the soldier or US soldiers, you know, worked out of.
[13:50] Landing zones. So there was an area of operation and there was two, what we called landing zones. Now the landing zones were on top of hills, spread around an area, and that's where the artillery was located. But also supplies would come to that landing zone and then be dispersed. So I worked out, or we worked out of, our battalion worked out, and now it's four companies.
[14:16] So you had a company each on each of the landing zone and then a company, the other companies in the field, uh, doing rotations. So every 10 days you would rotate up to a landing zone, they would come down, and that's how we operate. So I'm on lz, Siberia and um, sister company. Basically got hit that day.
[14:40] Ultimately, as I find out, there's a, a movement, uh, with the, uh, north of Vietnamese, uh, regular army coming down from the north to take over the he duck area in which we were located. So they had a whole regimen on the move. I didn't know that until later, but Bravo Company was in the field. We were on the Lz Bravo company had been.
[15:05] That day by, uh, Vietnamese force and we flew out to give them security or to give them replacement. And by the time we got there, it was late at night, so the word was to move everybody out. So we pulled front and rear security, help the wounded and carry the dead out as we could. So we moved that evening and got him out of that area.
[15:29] Now on that movement, we had to cross the stream and there was a machine gun nest that was set up down the stream. And as we tried to cross the stream, they opened up fire. So the word was to leave the bodies. When a quick firefight leave the bodies and we'll come back and pick them up two days later. So that was our action.
[15:49] My reinforced platoon was gonna go back and pick up those bodies, get helicopters come in to extract them. So in that movement, back to that area, we were walking on an open race patty. And so I was eighth in line. I was carrying a grenade launcher, that was my weapon. And our point men saw movement across the berm and he.
[16:12] Um, and he shouted out. Go, go, shots broke the stillness. They started to run. He started to chase them, pulling everybody out in the middle of the race pad when a machine gun started to level the areas. And so now bodies were diving, lifting right into the rice patties to get some protection and I jumped into the patty in front of me and another one on, on a lower level.
[16:34] Four guys were pinned down. So my responsibility was to get some firepower cause I was the only one that, uh, could reach 'em since I had, uh, M 79 grenade launcher. So I was just pumping grenades over to him. That's when I got hit the first time and was shut through the. At that time and then dropped back behind some protection.
[16:55] Got enough firepower to get the guys who were pinned down, got 'em out of there, and then we fell back to our commanding officer into the woodline, uh, and set up another defensive position. They probed our perimeter and all of a sudden I see a grenade come flying in outta the corner of my eye, hit my commanding officer right in the middle of the back, and it bounced off of.
[17:17] Kind of slow motion and I was in but maybe three feet from him. And it bounced off rolled and before I could get out of the way, it blew up and I was standing on top of it and blew up through both my feet, my legs. And so we were another fire fight until Sister Platoon found its way down, tried us out of there, et cetera, et cetera.
[17:36] That was the action at that time. And it was another interesting, you know, phenomenon in. At least for me is that in the midst of this, everything became very, Clear, very clear of what needed to be done. I mean, it wasn't a panic. People weren't panicking. But you know, you go, Okay, fine. I'm on this side. I need to set up some perimeter guidance over here.
[18:01] What if they surround us? What will you do? And I was sitting there and saying, Okay, fine. If they come down this pathway, the only thing I have is that I have a shotgun shell that I can replace. For grenade that would explode just like a shotgun rather than an explosion. So, and I thought, okay, I put one in, I said, If they come around the left-hand side and I happen to see them, I'm opening up Fire one shot, and I hope they're as.
[18:31] Scared as I am because they will turn around and run, and I'm running the other way as best I possibly can in the condition that I am. So that was my thought process. And it was kind of interesting that things became calm and you just kinda logically looked at what needed to be done and you didn't worry about anything else.
[18:49] And so then we were in another firefight as we set up that defensive position when all of a sudden there was a time when it was like, Here they come. I mean, it was just like it opened up fire and as much as they opened up the firepower onto us, I'm thinking, Oh, they're gonna overrun us. It stopped and it was like, well, what happened?
[19:13] I don't know what happened. I don't know whether they, we wounded or killed their leader, but all of a sudden, boom, they pulled back and left us be another platoon finally fought its way down and to drag us out of there. So, but that was kind of the action that took place. So, you know, it's an interesting thing from a human.
[19:33] Perspective in how we react under pressure, and I really truly believe that 90% of the people don't panic or kind of like, Okay, let's assess the situation. Let's take a look at what needs to be done. And you don't think about what may happen or whatever it is you just do. What needs to be done at that moment in time to either survive and or take care of the people that are.
[20:02] Yeah, I've never been in war, but I do understand the idea that when you're in highly intense, even life or death situations, that things slow down and you just, you know, everything else is blocked out. You get the tunnel vision and you focus on the task at hand because that's the only thing you can really do.
[20:19] Very much so, and you can only do what you can do. And that was happened to the majority of the soldiers that were around me as I saw them react under those same circumstances. And you want a Purple Heart and bronze star. Is that right? For your service and sacrifice for that? Yeah. So, The purple heart you don't want, but you get it in this case.
[20:39] And so I received a Purple Heart and then a Bronze Star. I was surprised about the Bronze Star, but it was written up by my commanding officer what took place during that period of time. So that was very fortunate. Yeah, incredible. I've heard the story of Rocky Bleier for my whole life as, as we talked before, the interview, you know, growing up in Pittsburgh as a kid and always known you were a wounded combat veteran and just fascinating to hear the story.
[21:03] So thank you for sharing that. You're welcome. Now you, you come home. Report to Steelers camp. You make the team, you win Super Bowls and live happily ever after. Right? , that's kind of the story that a lot of people know, but the truth is a whole lot different. You know, you're in pain, hard to be able to walk.
[21:17] You're, I think 30 pounds lighter or something like that. I've read and, And you show up at your first camp. You have a hard time walking. What made you think you had a chance? It was this. So I'm in the hospital, so I spent, um, nine months in the hospital through the process of healing and through the process of getting back and, and walking and so on.
[21:35] So the biggest thing is your mindset to begin with, and how do you assess the situation. So as I assess the situation, which was this, hey, playing sport in our lives or just in our lives, playing in the backyard. Playing pickup games, playing neighborhood games. You get hurt, , you get hurt. Just being a kid, you know, you fall over, you sprain your ankle, you, you fall down steps or you run into a tree, whatever you fall out of it, you know, whatever happens as they grow.
[22:03] And so there's kind of a lesson that you learn. And what's the lesson? Well, it hurts. Okay? You see a doctor, okay? You heal, maybe go through a little rehab. And then you're back out playing again. So it happens in the neighborhood. Oh, you fall down, you scrape your knee. Oh mom, it really hurts. She put some iodine on it, you know, and said, It'll be right, honey.
[22:26] Okay, fine. Just give her a couple days and a couple days go by and you're back out playing again. You know? And so that was kind of a mindset that I had because of these injuries. The other thing was that I didn't lose an arm or a lake. I didn't lose. Of my body damaged, yes, but I didn't lose anything, so we've been hurt before.
[22:50] So there's this process that you kind of go through given time. Now, I don't know the extent of what would take place, but. I do remember when I was in the hospital in Tokyo, owns part of the story as well, and I got enough courage to ask my attending physician, doctor, what do you think of my chances of coming back in play?
[23:12] And he said, Don't worry about it. You're gonna have a normal life. You're gonna be able to do things. Normal people do. Don't expect to get back on the gridiron. You won't have the strength or the flexibility to do the things that are necessary to be running back in the NFL. Well, as my authority figure, I mean, if you think as my authority figure, here's the guy that's just sucked that hope right out, you know, it just kind of whoop.
[23:36] Now, fortunately, who knows? But the interesting thing is there are things in our lives. Make a difference or will have an impact. Two days later, I get a postcard in the mail. It's got two lines on it. Very simply, it says, Rock team's not doing well. We need you or Rooney. Wow, somebody needs me. Well, they didn't need me, but somebody took the time to care.
[24:02] So anyway, so now it becomes kind of a mindset. Now, I wasn't gonna believe the doctor to begin with, but it is now a matter of trying to come back. So I am now on outpatient leave and I'm still attached to the hospital. I gotta go. But I also thought, all right, fine. And this was the spring of 70.
[24:25] Around that time March, let's say March or April. Well, I need to start working out and so I started getting up at five o'clock in the morning and as best I possibly could start running, and then I would go to the gym in the afternoon after. My obligations were fulfilled with the military and start working.
[24:46] So I had to get this 170-pound body back up to 200 pounds as I best possibly can over a period of time. So it became just that mindset. So I was in the service, I had the opportunity to do that, and you just have to. Go through it. I don't know where it was gonna take me or what was gonna happen, but you know, I limped through the running and get yourself back in shape and running some sprints, just working on that stuff.
[25:15] Anyway, so, I get, uh, an early out of the military, uh, which was a surprise to me as they were starting to cut back and I was never going back to active duty in that case. So I got an early out in time to go to Steeler's training camp, and so I went this dealer's training. I got my weight back up as best I could.
[25:40] It was probably 195 pounds or so. And uh, it got my strength back and I was working out and I was feeling in pretty good shape and so on. But two a day practices took its toll-like usual. And so they were kind enough to keep me through the whole season, or it's the whole training camp, I should say, and just whether they felt guilty, whatever the situation.
[26:05] But they allowed me to do that. So I walk in nowhere. Then we left training camp and we're over at three River Stadium, brand new stadium just built 1970, and they were going, getting down to the final. It was the final cut of the day, and I can remember walking in. And I'm still hanging around. Reality is only what you create in your mind.
[26:27] And I really didn't look at it. I was kind of like, Oh, okay, fine. Well, maybe who knows? You know, I'm in there, nobody's looking at me, and I'm walking up to my locker, I'm standing in front of locker and, and all of a sudden Ralph Berlin, who was our trainer, comes by and he goes, Hey Brock, um, Chuck Noel would like to see.
[26:51] And bring your playbook, the kiss of death, and bring your playbook. So anyway, I went to see Chuck, you know, and he goes, Eh, he said, We've released you and go home, do what's necessary, and we'll invite you back next year. For the thing. I was crying. I don't even know where I got enough guts to try to argue with Chuck on.
[27:12] Really? You think I, you know, I think I can, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but I just couldn't let go anyway, so I was driving home. I was crying. I was really down and I got a phone call from Dan Rooney. Art said the Chief's son who was the president of the club, and he said, I'm sorry I wasn't there. He said, I talked to Chuck.
[27:33] We're not gonna take a spot, but we're gonna put you on injured reserve and we're gonna give you another operation we think that you need. I have some more shrapnel in my foot. So they bought me a year and they paid me a salary. I had another operation and came back, and I came back the following year.
[27:51] So kind of the same thing, but I was a little bit bigger and stronger and I made the taxi squad the second year, uh, which is like the developmental squad that they have today. So they kept me two years. Two years to heal, two years to get bigger, you know, for whatever reason. And I don't care. But they gave me an opportunity and I think that's the only thing.
[28:15] So you have to do something with that opportunity. And so I became bigger and stronger and faster than I had before. And I came back in 1972 during training camp, and I tell this story because I think it becomes important, and I was the leading ground gainer during the exhibition season. Good enough to make the team.
[28:36] Never carried the ball thereafter. Played special teams and so on, but it was an opportunity and so I came back the following year a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, leading ground gainer again during the exhibition season. Got to carry the ball once during that season. better than the year before.
[28:53] Then we start to think about, okay, now this whole process, as we were talking about it, is a five-year process to be able to get there and in that's in 19 73, 5 years, I carried the ball once, went all you know, through the operations of blah, blah, blah, and so my future to come back in 19 74, 19 74 to come back again.
[29:19] I was gonna have to fight with every free agent, rookie draft choice again, to be able to make the team. I had five years towards my retirement, which was the minimum at that time. And I thought, uh, okay, maybe my life's going in another direction. Okay. I mean, I did come back. I didn't quit. I got a chance to make the team got a chance to play, maybe not to the level I thought.
[29:43] you know, that wasn't part of the deal. So I left the team in my mind, I left the team. I wasn't going back for the 74 season. After the 73 season. And I got a call from a teammate of mine, Andy Ruhel, and he was coming into Chicago, Big Sports dinner, sponsored by the NFL for the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago.
[30:04] Uh, guys are coming from all World League. Said, Why don't you join us? It'd be great to get together. Well, I'm not going back. And so I politely. He pushed, I declined some more, and he pushed some more. Then he asked me the question why, and I said, Well, I quit. I, I'm not going back. And he said, You can't quit.
[30:24] If you quit, what you have already done is that you've already made a decision for that coaching staff. Do you like them well enough to make decisions for them? He said, No. Your responsibility, if this is what you want to do, is that you come back and you make them make a decision. You back them in the corner.
[30:41] You give them every reason to either keep you or with. But you don't cut yourself. I mean, the reality of this game is that we're all expendable. The reality of this game is that we all can be cut at any time, but if this is what you want, then you don't cut yourself. Well, obviously it was just the arm twisting I needed, maybe from an old older brother I didn't have, and I went back and everything I perceived did take place.
[31:06] And in a fight with every free agent, draft choice, and rookie to make the. Leading ground gainer once again during the exhibition season. Now, I tell you that in the context only because of the fact that the reason I was the leading ground gainer wasn't because of the fact I was bigger, faster, better than all the other running backs was the simple fact that.
[31:26] I played more than anybody else during that period of time. I carried to the ball more than anybody else during that period of time. Given those two simple statistics, I better be the leading ground gamer because all they were providing for me was what in opportunity. So as I tell people, I said they had to keep me, and I was the fifth running back out of four at the beginning of the season, back playing special teams.
[31:55] When things happen, unbeknownst to us, Franco Harris first game gets hurt. The backup becomes the starter. I become the backup to the backup. Wow. Place I had never been before. So we renewed vigor. First game, second game, third game, fourth game. Right before the half, the backup gets hurt. Franco's still out.
[32:17] I'm inserted the game with a guy by the name of Preston Pears. Preston finishes crew at the Dallas Cowboys, but I tell you this, only because he breaks 1 43 yards down the sideline and scores and gives us a lead. And we go on halftime, go over assignments, adjustments, and I'm thinking to myself, who's gonna start the second half?
[32:35] You know, maybe those guys that got you lead the first half and we get to start the second half and we win the game following week. Everybody's still banged up. Preston and Night get to. And as a team, we win the game the week thereafter. It's a Monday night game. An extra day of healing Franco now becomes healthy.
[32:56] Damn. Anyway, so all the running backs are getting together After our breakfast, before the game, we go over Simon's adjustments and uh, Coke. Our Bacterio coach says, Franco, you rock will start. Momentarily after understand. I was quite confused. I didn't know how we both could play the same position at the same time.
[33:17] When it dawned on me, I was gonna play the full-back position as I had been playing, I was gonna play the other running back position. Nobody told me that. I wish they would've. I'd been better prepared, but we get to start the game and we win that game. And we start the remaining part of that season and we go to the playoffs and we go to the Super Bowl and we win the Super Bowl and we play six more years together and Franco and I become the second set of running backs to get a thousand yards rushing in 1976.
[33:45] And after 12 years I retired. But anyway, the reason that I get a chance to play is just because of an opportunity and taking advantage of that opportunity. The reason I got was that Chuck no. Said to Dick Holt, prior to that breakout group, all those many years before, I said, We have a weakness in the backfield.
[34:05] Who is your best blocker? He said, bli. He said, Then startle one talent. And so basically that kind of fine line of one that connects our life. Came full circle, you know? So if it wasn't for the talent, I might not have had that opportunity. If it wasn't for the injury, it might not have had the Preston's 43-year touchdown, might have opportunity, et cetera, et cetera.
[34:30] And so it kind of all ties together just to be able to have that support mechanism and being able to play with that team and not giving up. For the listeners, I want you to think about. Yourself. I want you to think about who's that expert in your life who told you that you can't and that you won't, and it's not possible.
[34:51] Maybe that expert is yourself in your own mind. You may have tried for years. Rocky just talked about five years of this short story on a podcast episode that you're listening to. The five years of pain, suffering, physical and mental and psychological. The early mornings, the hard work, the self-doubt, the setbacks, that is what made all of this possible.
[35:17] In 1974, he starts and he goes to the Super Bowl in 17, carries for 65 yards against one of the best. The offensive lines never. And NFL history, the purple people, leaders of the Vikings. That only happens when you keep showing up and rocky. There's failures in there. There's failures. I mean, a lot of failures.
[35:37] You failed to make the team multiple times. 1972, you talked about you carried the ball once, and I think you fumbled 1973. Carried the ball three times for a total of zero yard. Despite the failure and, and there's probably a lot more in there, like despite all these failures you kept going, right? One of the things is that you can see right over my head where I'm catching a touchdown pass.
[36:00] I was in Super Bowl 13 right before the half. Okay, and so the cover of Sports Illustrated, I had that opportunity to be on there three times, but recently I came across the statistics in that game, Super Bowl 13, I carried the ball twice for one yard. Well, I caught one pass and I recovered one on side kick.
[36:21] But I made the cover of Sports Villas. So the fact is you just gotta be in the game. You don't have to have all the statistics in the world or be the best. It just be at the right place at the right time. Yeah, you gotta show up. You gotta show up. That's it. So, So what is your view on failure? Yeah, I think there's a difference between failure and quitting and we all fail.
[36:46] I mean, we fail at different things, but, and as I look back on those failures in my life, they've been teaching lessons or warning lessons about yourself and redefining of what you want or how you see yourself or where you want to go and what becomes important in your life. And so I remember I failed at the University of Notre Dame in my classes.
[37:08] And I had to go to summer school. But the interesting thing was that I learned from that failure and I had to take those courses over again. But it gave me an opportunity to go to summer school, gave me an opportunity to work on, gave me an opportunity to see a whole different vision and actually meet some people that were very instrumental in my life later on during that summer school.
[37:31] And then I also learned about. Okay, Why can't they teach this during a regular semester? You know? And I got A's in both of these courses that I had failed in during a regular school. So you learn so much from your failure and learn about yourself and learn about maybe what you like to do or don't like to do.
[37:52] I mean, you fail at something and why do you fail at something? Maybe because it's a different direction where you want to go and it's not that direction. And so it gives you maybe some insight into defining who you are, uh, what you want to achieve and how you see yourself. And I think that becomes, Most important is how we see ourselves within the roles in which we play and what we want to get accomplished.
[38:19] There's opportunity in every failure, and most people wanna hang their head, but if you're willing to keep your head up and look around, that's how you see and find the opportunity and, and you certainly did that. I mean, I'm doing this podcast with you, not because we're great friends, but because of this, because of playing with a team, because of being at the right place, and it's their success.
[38:41] I rode along their coattails. I mean, you know, you look at the success of a team being at the right place at the right time. Who knew about that? Not when I was drafted in the 16th round in 1968 to the losing his team in the NFL. No one had this vision, but it happens and you're just kind of there and taking in it.
[39:02] And so if you're not in the game, none of this is gonna happen. You know? And who knows where it's gonna be. So that becomes, I think, very important in how we view our. Rocky, for the listener who's out there listening to this, what action items might they take in the next, say, 24 or 48 hours? You know, they're listening to your story and they're thinking.
[39:25] I've been beaten down. I've failed. I've tried, and I've been going through this process. Maybe it's been years, they've been going through their own story and they've not, you know, made the team yet. What action it, What do they do in the next 24 to 48 hours to really start, start moving towards the life that they want and finding success through failure?
[39:44] I think the, the biggest thing is defining what makes them happy. That's important. Also, defining what they're good. Or what do they like in that way? And I go, Okay, fine. It was like selling insurance. There are a lot of people who have made a lot of money and been very successful in doing that. And one of the things I found out, it wasn't part of my personality, you know, not that I couldn't do it, but it wasn't my dream, it wasn't my driving force.
[40:11] I was in the broadcasting business and when I got out of plane and I thought, Hey, I could handle that, and I worked for NBC, and one of the things I figured I could not do very well. Was at Lib. I admire the people that can stand there with a mic and just tell you what's happening, you know, without having it written down or whatever.
[40:31] Its, I, I couldn't do that. It was just something that I couldn't do. But you kind of learn from those things of what you can't do, and that kind of pushes you to what maybe you would like to do. And it's also a matter of having the opportunity to do so. It's like I get a chance at times to do some public speaking.
[40:51] Well, I'm not a public speaker to begin with. I don't think we were born to become, you know, it's something that you have an opportunity to do or maybe you like to do it or you get better after and, and it was only because of playing on a team like this. Winning and part of a story is. You're asked to do great school sports banquets, and so you come, Okay, fine.
[41:17] So his former Steeler or Steeler player is coming to speed, you know, and you go, you gotta write a speech. And I tell people, Okay, fine. And I wrote a speech and I would get my little speech, I'd take it out of my pocket and open it up. And as we've been on stage before, it would go ladies and gentle. It is a pleasure being here.
[41:37] A lot of things have happened to me over the last couple years. Some of them good and some of them bad, and then like after four or five years, I could go, Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure being here. A lot of things have happened to me over the last couple years. Some of them good, some of them bad.
[41:51] Then I got smart and put 'em on the three-by-five card. Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure being here. A lot of things have happened over the last couple years. Some of them good, some of them bad. And then one day I lost the cards. I had to do it by memory. , that's, and I should say this, I don't perceive myself as a great speaker or a great platform speaker, but I've developed into a speaker that people.
[42:19] For whatever reason, but it's by doing it and having a desire to want to do it. And to some degree, there's gonna be an inward ego that goes, I can do it better than him. Or, I'm just as good as they are, no matter what that might be. And so that needs to be developed and how you see yourself in. Great advice, Rocky, where can people find you, follow you, et cetera?
[42:45] Your website a great place. Is it rocky lyer.com? Oh, yeah. That's a place to start. Rocky lyer.com. They can find me there more often than not, . Excellent. Rocky, thanks so much for making time to come on the show and for sharing your story. Oh, you're welcome. Thanks for the opportunity. Thanks for listening.
[43:03] If you want to apply these principles into your life, let's talk. You can see the limited spaces that are open on my Cal. JimHarshawJr.com/apply where you can sign up for a free one-time coaching call directly with me. And don't forget to grab your action plan. Just go to JimHarshawJr.com/action. And lastly, iTunes tends to suggest podcasts with more ratings and reviews more often.
[43:28] You would totally make my day if you give me a rating and review. Those go a long way in helping me grow the podcast. Just open up your podcast app. If you have an iPhone, do a search for success through failure, Select it, and then scroll the whole way to the bottom where you can leave the podcast, a rating and a review.
[43:47] Now, I hope this isn't just another podcast episode for you. I hope you take action on what you learned here today. Good luck and thanks for listening.
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