STEUBENVILLE - Rocky Bleier, the star running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers teams that dominated the National Football League and won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, will bring his message of courage, endurance and hope to Steubenville on April 9 as the main speaker at Franciscan University of Steubenville's Century Club Dinner.
"Rocky has a message that is right for our times and right for the Ohio Valley," said Mike Florak, director of community relations at the university. "He was badly wounded in the Vietnam War and few thought he'd ever play football again, but he worked his way back onto the Steelers' roster. He'll have a lot to say about how to overcome adversity.
"People from all walks of life come away inspired when they hear Rocky speak," said Florak.
The master of ceremonies for this year's dinner will be John Buccigross, a graduate of Steubenville Catholic Central whose television duties at ESPN have included hosting "SportsCenter," "Baseball Tonight," "NHL 2night" and other assignments. He also wrote a hockey book, "Jonesy: Put Your Head Down and Skate," and writes for ESPN.com.
Buccigross jumped at the chance to be a part of the Century Club Dinner and return to his hometown. A past recipient of the Century Club President's Award, this time Buccigross will help introduce this year's awardees: Reno Saccoccia, Steubenville High School football coach; Ken Mannie, Michigan State University strength and conditioning coach; and a posthumous presentation to Emanuel "Mindy" Costanzo, former owner of M&M True Value Hardware Store in Steubenville.
With three state championships and an .850 winning percentage, there aren't many in the Ohio Valley who don't know of the football accomplishments of Reno Saccoccia. Now in his 28th year guiding the Big Red football team, Saccoccia will be honored with the president's award for the values and strong work ethic he instills in his players, and the confidence he gives them that they can "be somebody." He's also known for his hidden acts of kindness to support his players off the field and has received high praise from opposing players for his encouraging words to them after a tough loss.
Ken Mannie grew up in Steubenville and coached football, wrestling, and track at his alma mater, Catholic Central. He then went on to football coaching positions at the University of Akron, Ohio State University and the University of Toledo. Now in his 16th year as the strength and conditioning coach at Michigan State, Mannie is widely recognized for instilling discipline, accountability and other important building blocks in the lives of student-athletes.
The author of more than 200 articles on strength and conditioning, nutrition and other sports-related topics, Mannie has taken a strong public stance against performance-enhancing drugs.
As the original owner of M&M True Value Hardware Store in Steubenville, Emanuel "Mindy" Costanzo was well known for his friendly spirit and generosity that knew no bounds. While fighting in Italy in the U.S. Army during World War II, he took up a collection to buy a donkey for an Italian woman who had cooked a meal for Costanzo's unit. During the segregation era, he purchased the uniforms for Steubenville's black softball and baseball teams. A charter member of the Century Club, Costanzo donated materials for building projects for the cash-strapped College of Steubenville and he supported students who needed financial help. He died last year at the age of 96.
The Century Club Dinner begins with hors d'oeuvres at 6 p.m. Tickets are $50 each. Contact Nancy Ross in the Franciscan University of Steubenville Alumni Office at (740) 284-5210 or firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. Proceeds will support the university's athletic department through the Carmen J. Barbetta Memorial Athletic Fund.