Time to point out the positive athlete stories in sports
November 29, 2016 3:01 AM
by Scott Schettler
Another Thanksgiving is gone but I’m fresh with stories of athletes who are truly thankful and whose courage I hope rubs off on me if I’m ever asked to carry burdens they faced.
So much is made of the jerks we’re subjected to if we follow sports for whatever reason. Some of these jerks are even praised for their brutish behavior off the field and their selfish celebrations on the field.
Not guys like Pitt Panther running back James Connor who has been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy winner, a Lombardi Trophy candidate and will be a high draft choice. Connor was the ACC Player of the Year in 2014. In Pitt’s first game of the 2015 season he shredded a knee and his season was over. That injury may have saved his life.
Almost two months into his rigorous knee rehab a routine x-ray revealed cancer of the lymph system. With his knee still in need of rehab he also began six months of grueling chemotherapy treatments leaving him exhausted and sick. Two weeks after his last chemo treatment this May, he was declared cancer-free.
This fall, he made an emotional return to Heinz Field scoring two touchdowns in Pitt’s season opening win. He hasn’t been stopped since, setting a new ACC record for career touchdowns (53 so far).
UCLA defensive tackle Takkarist McKinley was abandoned by his parents and, thankfully, raised by his grandmother. He slept on the floor as a youngster while living with her and he continues to sleep on the floor now although he certainly doesn’t have to. He’ll be a likely first round draft choice. He does it to remind himself of where he came from and what he overcame.
One of my favorites from the past is running back Rocky Bleier, four time Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sounds great but it took a heroic effort and a boost from Art Rooney, beloved gambler and founder/owner of the Steelers.
Bleier was a sixteenth round draft choice out of Notre Dame in 1968. That same year he was also drafted into the Army and sent into the heart of the Vietnam War. Rocky was shot and tore up by a grenade. While being put back together he received a post card from Rooney. It said, “Rock, team’s not doing well. We need you. Art Rooney.” That was it!
Seven years later Bleier rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He was with the Steelers from 1971 to 1980 during the Steel Curtain days of four Super Bowl Championships. He was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Anthony Robles was born with one leg to a 16-year-old mother who told him he could do anything and watched him prove it. At 22 he went on to win the NCAA 125-pound National Championship, topping off an undefeated senior season at Arizona State.
Or Dewey Bozella who was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 26 years in Sing Sing before the Innocence Project proved his innocence and freed him. Bozella began boxing in prison to help live with being wrongfully convicted.
While doing time Bozella met his wife Trena and earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College and a master’s from New York Theological Seminary. In 2011 at age 52, Bozella fullfiled his dream by winning a professional fight on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson main event at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Now Bozella teaches boxing and discipline to young people and pursues his own gym. He was awarded the 2011 ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Only God knows what inspires such courage. Take care.
His book, We Were Wise Guys and Didn't Know It is available on amazon.com