Most athletes are known for their accomplishments on the field, but one Super Bowl champion also served in the Vietnam War. Toward the end of 1960, Rocky Bleier found himself drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, there was another draft that trumped football. The draft into the U.S. Army. He had to press pause on his football career and went over to Vietnam.
Sent To Vietnam
He finished basic training in 1969. Then, he and over 500,000 troops were stationed in southeast Asia.
He told Fox Sports, "Next thing I knew, I was in basic training, and my world had kind of been turned upside down. Then, eventually, I found myself in Vietnam, like all replacement soldiers at the time –shipped over because they needed bodies."
He stepped foot in Vietnam in May 1969 as a mortarman with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade stationed in LZ Siberia by Hiep Duc. Their sister unit was attacked by a group of North Vietnamese Army regulars.
Bleier's Charlie Company went to assist. However, it turned into a recovery mission. Charlie Company worked to recover the dead and wounded. But, they were also ambushed and had to withdraw from the area.
Two days later, they returned to retrieve the bodies and were hit again. This time, Bleier was hit in the thigh with a bullet.
He was not sure how he was going to get out of there, but he put gauze on it and got himself back to his commanding officer. But, they were not safe from the NVA.
A grenade thrown by the NVA almost hit Bleier and his commanding officer. Nevertheless, they continued to fight the NVA until they vanished. Bleier's unit decided it was a good moment to leave.
Bleier's wounds were extensive. Doctors removed 100 pieces of shrapnel from his legs and right foot, all injuries that could have ended his career in the NFL.
In 1970, the Steelers put Bleier in the Injured Reserve, and in 1971, he was on waivers. But in 1972, he was good to play again.
In 1974, he helped them get to the first of 4 Superbowls. A man who was told he would never have the strength and flexibility to play in the NFL ran 3,826 yards on 922 carries.
He also scored 23 rushing touchdowns caught 133 passes for 1,226 yards with two touchdowns.