On a borrowed horse, Mel Blount drove through the cows with ease, separating a white one from the herd before picking out another.
After he finished his cutting demonstration Wednesday at James Brown Arena, the former NFL star delivered a message as he remained atop the horse.
As a crowd of about 1,000 people – mostly school-age children – looked on, Blount said there’s one thing to do to help those having difficulty.
“Whatever your situation is, there is a way out,” he said. “That is to have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”
Blount, who received a proclamation from Augusta Commission member Matt Aitken, knows about hard times. He grew up the youngest of 11 children on a farm in Vidalia, Ga. He overcame poverty through his all-around athletic prowess, strong work ethic and Christian faith. He graduated from high school in 1966 and two days later took his belongings in a brown paper bag and a borrowed foot locker on a Greyhound bus to Southern University in New Orleans.
Blount went on to become an All-American safety and cornerback in college and was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970.
“They were the doormat. They were the worst team in the league at the time,” Blount said. “I didn’t want to go to Pittsburgh. You never know the plan God has for you in your life.”
He played 14 seasons with the Steelers, helping Pittsburgh win four Super Bowls. He was the NFL’s 1975 Defensive Player of the Year, and he intercepted 57 career passes en route to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After reaching football’s pinnacle, Blount said, he was called on to do more than sign autographs and take pictures with people. He started the Mel Blount Youth Home in Vidalia and Claysville, Pa., in the 1980s. The purpose is to help children become productive citizens – a message that resonates for everyone, he said.
“We are all God’s children,” Blount said. “He has a purpose for all of us.”