Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame grows its ranks

RETURNING TO HIS ROOTS — Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz, a Follansbee native, was in Wintersville Monday to celebrate the accomplishments of Upper Ohio Valley residents who serve as an inspiration to those around them. Members of the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 were feted at the group’s annual banquet, held at St. Florian Hall. -- Linda Harris

WINTERSVILLE — Steelers icon Rocky Bleier told the crowd gathered at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville Monday for the annual Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame banquet they have “the power to make a difference, the power to make change, the power to impact” people and communities.

“That’s the power we all have,” said Bleier, a member of four Steelers Super Bowl-winning teams and the Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame’s Distinguished American Award winner for 2019.

Also inducted were Lifetime Achievement Award winner George Bodenheimer, the one-time mail clerk who rose to become ESPN’s long-tenured president, overseeing “unprecedented growth” at the network during his 13 years at the helm; long-time Chester Fire Chief John Hissam; MVP Award winner Lee Montanari, founder of Communicyle, an outreach ministry; and the Frank LaNeve family of Newell, recognized as the family heritage honoree.

Bleier, the guest speaker, reminded the crowd the Steelers picked him in the 16th round of the 1968 NFL draft.

“You have to understand it from my perspective — the draft was 17 rounds, I was not drafted in the 17th round,” he said, pointing out when you’re “the 417th draft pick on a losing team, no one knows you exist.”

His football career had barely begun before he was drafted again — this time, by Uncle Sam — and was sent to Vietnam. Seriously wounded by both rifle fire and grenade fragments in the same day, he would have to fight his way back to football.

“Sometimes in life things start to change and they weigh on you,” he said. “I did come back, I did make the team and I had a chance to prove myself.

“Define what your talent is, hone it to the best of your ability, so you can give back to family and community,” he said.

Holtz said he’s been blessed in life, not just in his coaching and television careers but also with his family. He told the crowd it’s important to remind young people, “You can do great things if you believe.”

“You have no chance if you don’t believe in yourself,” he said.

(Harris can be contacted at lharris@heraldstaronline.com)