Day In Steelers History
March 15, 1984
Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount retired
There aren’t many players who have caused the NFL to change the rules because of their play, but there also aren’t many players like Mel Blount.
Blount, the Steelers third round draft pick in 1970 out of Southern University, came into the NFL with everything a coach would want…size, speed, quickness, mental and physical toughness and a work ethic that came from growing up working on a farm in Valdosta, Georgia.
“Growing up in the South, the youngest of 11 kids, growing up on a farm, my parents were farmers and that is how we made our living,” said Blount recently while recalling his road to the Hall of Fame. “We worked the fields, went to school, and this little thing called a football we threw around. We started playing and the next thing you know I get a scholarship to Southern University and I get drafted in the National Football League and came to a great organization like the Steelers.
“When I came into the league I definitely wasn’t ready for it. I was a young guy that had been sheltered growing up during segregation and all of a sudden you are cast into this spotlight and playing this game called pro football. It was a growing experience. You had to learn and learn fast. And to wind up in Canton, Ohio from that experience is unbelievable.”
Blount, who played 14 seasons, didn’t take too long to adjust as he worked his way into the starting lineup in the 1972 season, and shut down opposing receivers, not allowing a single touchdown all year. Blount could adjust to cover any type of receiver, but his specialty was the “bump-and-run,” and receivers barely stood a chance. It was that ability that caused the NFL to implement the five-yard bump rule in 1977, a rule where the only time a receiver can be bumped by a defender is within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
“When they changed the bump-and-run rule, we all had to adjust,” said Blount. “If you're an athlete, a player, you make the adjustment. You know what the rules are. You play within the rules, and you let your ability take you to whatever it can take you to.”
Blount arrived at training camp in 1975 with his head shaved, claiming it was to stay cool, but others convinced it was to give him a more menacing look on the field. It apparently worked as he had his best season and was named Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, finishing the year with 11 interceptions. He finished his career with 57 interceptions and two touchdowns and 13 fumble recoveries with two touchdowns.
Blount was named All-Pro four times and played in five Pro Bowls. He was a key part of the Steelers success in the 1970s, starting and playing a key role in all four Super Bowls during that decade.
Blount still has a presence about him, looking like he could still play cornerback despite retiring more than 30 years ago, but laughs when people suggest it, knowing those days are behind him. They were special days, ones that he never imagined would one day land him in the Hall of Fame.
“I am grateful, honored and humbled to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Blount. “You start to realize the older you get you are in a special place, a place where your name and legacy will live forever. It’s surreal and special and I don’t take that for granted. I realize I didn’t get there by myself. All of the people who worked with us, making us better, you realize that God had his arms around you and watched over you because it’s a game very few people get to play and even fewer get to the Hall of Fame.
“It’s an indescribable moment when you are inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s special. You look back at all of the phases of your football career, high school, college, Pop Warner, pro career, and you say man, do I really deserve to be here? It’s special. It’s a hallowed event and hallowed ground. It’s really special. There could never be a greater honor bestowed on a pro athlete, football player, than the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”