Pitt freshmen impressed by work of Blount Home
TiAnda Blount's voice drifted through the pine trees and was ignored by the horses grazing in a nearby pen. Her words, though, lost none of their intensity.
“This is the Mel Blount Home for boys,” said the wife of a Pro Football Hall of Famer. “I don't want to make it a home for girls.”
Even some of the Pitt football players stepped back stunned.
For the seventh consecutive year Friday, Pitt sent its freshman class to Claysville, Washington County, where the Mel Blount Youth Home and its namesake founder have been helping rescue young men from troubled lives for 25 years.
Thirty players worked with the 10 current residents (Steelers rookies did the same last month), teaching football fundamentals while trying to keep up with TiAnda on an obstacle course that overlooks most of the farm's 303 acres.
More importantly, they served as role models for young men.
“I guarantee you, you can talk to 90 percent of these kids out here that are going to the University of Pittsburgh and they have similar backgrounds that these kids have,” Blount said. “Probably coming from a single parent, probably growing up in a tough neighborhood, but it's sports that got them out.”
Blount estimates he has housed 12,000 children over the years. He said many return with their own children. Some have become ministers, teachers and businessmen.
Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd, a graduate of Clairton High School, was impressed with the opportunities available to the residents.
“When I was growing up, we didn't have anything like this,” he said. “It feels like we are leaders, true to everything. We are showing them the right way to the road to have success. I feel like some of the kids were down a little bit, so we have to bring them up.”
Tight end Scott Orndoff of Seton-La Salle said the home made him appreciate his life.
“We are pretty blessed,” he said. “To see them having a good time enjoying themselves, you can't beat it.”
Of Blount, he said, “He's in his 50s (65, actually), and he looks like he still can play.”
Blount stands as tall today in a pair of cowboy boots (complete with spurs) as he did while patrolling the Steelers secondary through four Super Bowl championships.
The youngest of 11 children, he grew up on a farm in Vidalia, Ga., using mules to plow the fields and picking cotton and tobacco. He demands his residents keep their pants pulled up, shirts tucked in and offer firm handshakes while looking the other person in the eye.
“That's something Mr. Mel believes in,” program director Phil Bledsoe said.
“You go out there and prepare the fields and plant the seeds,” Blount said, “and you just see what God does with it.”
Note: Former Shady Side Academy defensive back Reggie Mitchell has transferred from Wisconsin and enrolled at Pitt. He will sit out the upcoming season.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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