With his physical play and imposing size, defensive back Mel Blount served as the last line of defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the glory days of the 1970s.
Born in Toombs County, Georgia, in 1948, Blount received a football scholarship to Southern University in Louisiana where he earned an All-American selection. In 1970, the Pittsburgh Steelers chose the 6-foot-3, 205-pound defensive back in the third-round of the NFL Draft. Blount made an immediate impact with his new team by helping to neutralize opponents' passing attacks.
In 1975, he earned the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award after leading the league with 11 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Midway through his career, the NFL changed its pass coverage rules, partially based on Blount's physical style of play. Nicknamed the "Mel Blount Rule," the new regulation stipulated that a defender could not bump a receiver beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage. Even with the new rule in place, Blount remained one of the league's best cover men.
During the 1979 AFC Championship Game, he recovered a fumble that led to the Steelers' winning touchdown, and in Super Bowl 13 his interception helped the Steelers defeat the Dallas Cowboys.
During his 13-year career in Pittsburgh, Blount tallied 57 interceptions. After retiring from the NFL in 1983, he served seven years as the Steelers' director of player relations and founded the Mel Blount Youth Home, a shelter for victims of child abuse.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
On Friday Blount will be honored at the Heinz History Center's 22nd Annual History Makers Award Dinner for his exceptional contributions to the history of Western Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world.
Visitors to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the History Center can learn more about Mel Blount and the Steelers. For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.