Legends Series: Mel Blount
What’s your best memory from your playing career?
“I think it all starts in training camp. Sometimes people talk about training camp, and how difficult it was. It was the bonding, especially when we started the bible study program. That was the foundation of our development. When I look back over my career, you think about the two-a-days in camp. Guys got to know each other and a lot of bonding took place. I think that was pretty special.”
Who had the biggest impact on your career?
“I think as a coach probably Bud Carson. As a player, Joe Greene. Joe and I roomed together in training camp. We always kid each other about the Steelers put us together. I always tell him they put me there to take care of him, and he tells me, no Mel, they put me there to because of you. I think those two people, especially Bud Carson. We butted heads a lot, but at the end of the day we tried to be the best.”
You talk about the relationships, you are still a tight group. Is that special? The friendships have never faded?
“I think it’s amazing and has a lot to do with what we accomplished. When I came to the Steelers in 1969 they won one game and lost 13. There were a lot of building blocks laid. It was the people, the players, and the coaches. We had players who wanted to excel and achieve. Then we had somebody like Chuck Noll who kept pushing us to be the best. He reminded us you don’t ever arrive in this business. That is why we are where we are today and have the relationships, it was what we were able to accomplish and the journey we took. We are a close knit group. We lost some guys, but we realize we are still on this journey.”
The Mel Blount rule, bump and run. To this day you are still talked about because of your physical play. What was that like to have a rule named after you because of your physical play?
“People will say to me you were a bad boy, you have a rule named after you. When I look at that, it should have been named after the Steelers defense. The kind of pressure the front four put on people, and my style of play which was bump and run, it was everybody’s effort that brought about this rule. We were so dominant and we were playing Paul Brown, who was on the rules committee, twice a year. They tried to legislate the game and it was about what the Steelers were doing, and their inability to compete on the level the Steelers were on. That rule came out of plays that were made against big time receivers against the Browns. I give the credit to the total defense.”
What was it like to play on a defense that was so tough, so feared?
“It was fun, but it was also challenging. Any time you are on top, every game you have to bring your ‘A’ game. Every Sunday we went on that field, we had a standard we had to play to. If we didn’t we would get embarrassed. We wanted to continue to show our dominance. It was fun.”
If I am looking back at a highlight film that would show me what the Steelers defense is all about, what would it be?
“I look back at 1976, and we won one game and lost four. Terry Bradshaw got hurt. Then our defense took it to another level. You can look at any of those games in that season. Every game we took it to a new level. That year we probably had the best defense and best team we ever had. Then we got our running backs, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, hurt in the playoff game against Baltimore. You can take any of those games after the four-game losing streak and see how the defense was formed. It was tremendous to be a part of. When you look at the history of the Steelers in the 70s, they would look at that defense as the best.”
From growing up on a farm in Georgia, to four-time Super Bowl champion, to a Hall of Famer to making an impact in the community. Do you still shake your head as to where you have come?
“I give all of the glory to the Lord. I would never have thought a little boy growing up in the cotton fields in Vidalia, Georgia, during segregation, attending an all-black school and college, to be at this stage in my life. Sometimes we look back and think things were difficult and we don’t know why. The older you get, the more you realize you were being prepared for the future. What has happened, in my career, it allowed me and prepared me to do what I am doing now which is help young people try to make it on their journey. That is what life is all about.”
Looking back, what do you remember about draft day, about being selected by the Steelers?
“I remember on draft day, first of all I was disappointed. I thought like all of us I was a No. 1 draft choice. The first round came and there was no news. The second round came and there was no news. Guys on my team were getting drafted. The third round came and I was nowhere to be found. Back in those days they would call the college coaches and they would try to find you. It took a few hours to locate me. I went to the coach’s office and they told me I was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Being a 1-13 team, I wasn’t that excited. But it’s the best thing that ever happened to me looking back. I got the news. I got a call from Art Rooney Jr. who was a scout at the time. We talked. The next thing I know I was on a plane coming to Pittsburgh.
“I was in Pittsburgh once when Bill Nunn was a scout and he had the Pittsburgh Courier All-Americans from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. But I never experienced the snow and cold. My first season was a huge adjustment, playing in the snow, driving in the snow, living in the cold weather. It was an adjustment.”
What is it like to make that adjustment to a whole new environment?
“For me the biggest adjustments were the weather and environment. I was somewhat sheltered, just trying to fit in, it’s a big difference living in the South than North. I never had driven through a tunnel. I never experienced traffic. It took me 10 years before I spent my first offseason in Pittsburgh. When I did that I started to discover the beauty of the city and people and I have been here ever since. That was in 1980. It’s all part of your development.”
What did it mean to you to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
“Looking back at it I thank God I had the experience of playing for the Rooney family, for Chuck Noll, playing with guys I played with like Joe (Greene), Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert, you can go on and on. Great athletes and good people. I am very grateful. I just can’t image where I would be if that hadn’t happened.”