Steeler trades cleats for Ropers: Blount gives cutting demonstration

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ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. – In football circles, Pittsburgh Steeler great Mel Blount is known for cutting down receivers and grabbing interceptions. In the horse world, he’s known for cutting cattle from a herd on horseback.

At Ag Progress Days. Wearing a shiny silver belt buckle that proclaimed him as a 1992 Derby National Cutting Horse Association limited non pro finalist, Blount was a unique presenter during the 2003 Ag Progress Days, held last week in Rock Springs, Pa.

“Horses are just like athletes,” the five-time Pro Bowler said. “They get a workout, they get a shower, they get a special diet.

“And they have to have a good mental attitude.”

He should know something about conditioning and attitude. Blount, a cornerback with the Steelers from 1970 to 1983 and owner of four Super Bowl rings, was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Demonstration. Blount conducted a cutting horse demonstration Aug. 20, assisted by his 9-year-old son, Akil.

Blount addressed the crowd while on horseback and used a remote control stuffed cow on a pulley to train the 4-year-old Paint Akil was riding.

“Use his leg now. See the cow,” Blount instructed Akil. “I want you to stick this horse. Use him.”

Training kids, too. Blount has 17 horses, some at the Mel Blount Youth Home located on 300 acres in Washington County, Pa.; some at the first youth home he established in Vidalia, Ga.

Blount can house up to 24 youth at the western Pa. location and 36 youth in Georgia. Many of the troubled youth are referred to his facility through juvenile court systems; others are referred by parents at their wits’ end.

“The horses are great therapy for these kids,” Blount said. “It’s great to see them bond. There’s something magical that happens.”

The youth home is a 24-hour, year-round facility, with trained counselors available 24 hours a day.

It’s about respect. One of first lessons the youth gain is respect. “These horses seem so big to these inner city kids, you’ve got to learn to respect them,” Blount said. “If you don’t respect them, they’re going to step on you or kick you.”

“It’s all about learning how to give respect,” Blount said, adding that the lesson then translates into other areas of their lives.

Grew up on farm. Blount, 55, can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been around horses. He grew up on a Georgia farm where horses and mules were used to plow.

Now, he values breeding his own horses, raising and breaking them. “That’s the great reward of living on a farm,” Blount said. “Raising animals is a reflection of you.”

Blount answered questions from the crowd about both horses and children, as well as football.

He seemed as eager for his sons -Akil, 9; Jibri, 6; and Khalid, 5 – to excel in the horse arena as in the football stadium.

“I don’t ever want to push my kids,” Blount said, “I just want to expose them and let them decide.”

He emphasized the discipline needed to succeed with all three – football, horses and children. “It’s about repetition and consistency,” Blount said.

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