On the field, Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount is a legend. He was part of a Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl dynasty team in the late 70’s.
More than 40 years later though, he is giving back to the community he calls home not too far from the Ohio Valley.
In a field full of football players, it’s not hard to spot Mel Blount. Standing 6’3″ and known for his signature cowboy hat, Mel is just as inspirational off the field, as he was on the field, helping to lead the Steelers to multiple Super Bowl appearances.
Now 69-years-old, Mel and his wife TiAnda run the Mel Blount Youth Leadership Initiative, just a short drive on I-70 East in Claysville, Pennsylvania.
Originally a home for troubled youth, the Blount’s decided to expand their opportunity to reach more kids. “When we were housing kids on an annual basis, a daily basis, we only had 24 kids, now we have that ability and we’re averaging somewhere around three to four hundred kids every summer,” Blount said.
Hundreds of kids were greeted by a group of Pittsburgh Steelers rookies recently at a youth camp on the property. Giving high fives through a tunnel of terrible towels, the players stopped to chat with kids, signing autographs and taking pictures.
The guys ran drills with the kids, threw the ball with them, and gave them some pointers on the game, straight from the pros.
“It’s a blessing of an opportunity just to get out here, just to enjoy the process. Just showing the kids that hard work does pay off, to just really be a role model to them, and show them that anything is possible if you put hard work to it,” said Christian Brown, a free agent from WVU.
A Pittsburgh hometown favorite, James Conner, was also at the camp. Conner entered the draft in lieu of his senior season at Pitt, and is a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“You know, we just know how much it means to them and really we’re role models in the community to the young kids, so the interaction is precious for them, so it’s really important,” Conner said.
Mel has been working with young boys from around the region since the late 80’s. Now, they include the entire family in their work. “What we have tried to do is address all the issues that we know families face. It could be financially, it could be spiritually, it could be drug and alcohol,” Blount said.
“It’s not really a situation where you know, you’re just working with the kids. Now you’re beginning to see the bigger picture, and see the problems that they’re faced with,” Blount said.
Mel Blount’s Youth Leadership Initiative is a Christian-based organization that believes the foundation for any family is faith. And over the decades, Mel says he has seen plenty of success stories – young men able to change their lives around.
“It’s a tremendous feeling when you see that you have affected a young man’s life in a positive way – and seeing him going out into society and being successful,” Blount said.
Blount and TiAnda also hold a celebrity roast every year to raise money for the Youth Leadership Initiative. 2018 will mark their 20th year for the event.
The Youth Leadership Initiative is designed to help young men ages eight to 18. For more information, visit www.melblount.org.