Unlike most former athlete bios, Mel Blount's story says almost nothing about his career on the field, but focuses on his career as the founder and director of the Mel Blount Youth Home in Pennsylvania. A Hall of Fame player on four Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steeler teams, Bount was feared and respected on the field, but found the broader scope of life after football both more important and more rewarding--and much more challenging.
Facing financial, legal and bureaucratic hurdles that threatened his work, he found the task compounded even further by racism directed toward a black man doing what, in his own words, he wasn't supposed to do--make a difference in the lives of young men of all races. Any mistakes he made at the task--and Blount admits he is not a detail oriented person who is good at the paperwork necessary in the youth services field--were magnified by the KKK sensing an easy target and an opportunity for publicity, and a media that loves a good controversial story over anything else.
The furor peaked when the KKK staged a cross-burning on a neighbor's farm. That cross did indeed burn brightly, but not completely--unlike the cross of Christianity, the motivation behind Blount's after-football life work, which Blount found burning brightly in his life and heart through the admonition and love of his elderly mother and the remembered words of his late father. The comparison is a good one. The adoption of the cross as a symbol by the Klan is odious to every true Christian of any color or creed, to whom the cross of Christ represents salvation freely available to all through the love of God. There is no place for racism in the message of the Gospel.
Another marker that distinguishes this "life-after-the-game" story is that it isn't a simple valley-low, mountain-high story. There are many more valleys than peaks that Blount, true to his name, faces with a forceful to-the-point personality that sometimes rubbed even his supporters the wrong way. As a lifelong Steeler fan who also had a similar experience in a different youth-services position in western Pennsylvania, I followed the story as it happened with dismay as I saw the same tactics and misinformation deployed by even the most well-meaning citizens.
Despite the valleys, I can gladly report that the home is still going strong, as you can see by the web site http://www.mbyh.org/. Mel Blount was hard to beat on the field, and off it.
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