Steelers legend Rocky Bleier parting with several prized possessions
Like anyone in their golden years with a lifetime of memories — and boxes filled with mementos to show for it — Rocky Bleier got tired of the clutter.
Even if he had a collection of memorabilia that would make most 73-year-old men envious, from Super Bowl apparel to college recruitment letters to Vietnam War honors, Bleier had no more room in his attic or space in his storage unit.
So he has decided to sell some of the cherished possessions accumulated over the past 50-plus years.
“You get to that point in your life, and I don’t care who you are, with all the stuff collected and stashed over the years, you face the question of what are you going to do with it,” Bleier said Tuesday. “If something happens to you, where does it go, and do you want your kids or wife to deal with it?”
This week, Lelands auction house unveiled the “Rocky Bleier Collection” as part of its 2019 fall classic edition of memorabilia. It contains about 70 items that Bleier donated, spanning his days at Xavier High School in Appleton, Wisc., to his years at Notre Dame to his tour of Vietnam to his tenure as a four-time Super Bowl champion with the Steelers in the 1970s.
The auction began Sunday and concludes at 10 p.m. Dec. 6. It can be found at lelands.com.
“It came to that time of my life,” Bleier said. “I wanted to have a say-so in what happened to my possessions. I wanted to have some control over the memorabilia I had collected over the years. I talked to my kids and wife. They are fine with it.
“I figured there is a fan base of Steelers fans or collectors who would appreciate these items more than the junk man later on after I’m gone.”
The signature items in the collection are an autographed helmet worn by Bleier in Super Bowl XIII and an autographed jersey he wore the next season when the Steelers won Super Bowl XIV.
Other memorabilia include:
• A 1975 NFL man of the year plaque, a George Halas trophy and awards named after Whizzer White and Vince Lombardi.
• Game balls, including one from the 1980 AFC championship game, and his Steelers playbook from Super Bowl XIV.
• His Notre Dame 1966 national championship watch and class ring.
• His wallet with Army ID from 1970, plus photos from his tour in Vietnam.
• A personal scrapbook collection.
“It wasn’t easy,” Bleier said. “There are some emotional ties.”
What the collection does not contain are the four Super Bowl rings Bleier earned with the Steelers. When Bleier dies, he is bequeathing a ring to each of his four children.
Bleier also held onto a football commemorating his 1,000-yard rushing season in 1976 and a statue presented to him by backfield mate Franco Harris. Also, the medals he received for his service in Vietnam are not part of the collection.
Part of the proceeds will go to funding Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, an organization that places service canines with veterans. Bleier said it costs $25,000 to train a dog before it is placed into service.
It is a cause that carries a special attachment for Bleier, who was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his military service.
“They are trained to take care of emotional needs, nightmares,” Bleier said. “They can be trained to pick up keys, open doors. They can take care of so many needs.”
Bleier said Guardian Angels has placed over 300 dogs with veterans.
“There have been zero suicides and less than a 1% divorce rate,” he said. “There are 22 suicides by veterans a day. This is one method that has proven to be able to not only reduce, but eliminate that rate.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .