GIG: Community spokesperson for the Indianapolis Colts
BACKSTORY: On October 15, 2006, Bleill, a corporal in the U.S. Marines, lost both of his legs when an Iraqi insurgent’s IED exploded underneath his Humvee.
A NEW CHAPTER: Bleill recalls the road to recovery in his book, One Step at a Time: A Young Marine’s Story of Courage, Hope and a New Life in the NFL (Triumph Books, 2010).
I can’t play a pick-up game of hoops, but I am getting back to running. It’s one of my goals for this year.
I was actually the first person in the world to try a pair of artificial legs that had Bluetooth technology.
The legs were designed for a single amputee. They’d talk to each other, and the artificial leg would mimic the good leg.
One of my hips starts the process now, and then both legs mimic each other back and forth.
There were five guys in the vehicle when the bomb went off.
I lost two legs. Tim, the gunner, was thrown clear out of the Humvee and lost his right leg. My sergeant, Brock Babb, and Lance Corporal Joshua Hines were killed instantaneously.
The last thing I remember before the IED went off was my buddy next to me in the Humvee pointing out that a sheep was being slaughtered in the market we were driving through.
Physically you get past things. Losing two friends is definitely the hardest part.
When I was recovering in Walter Reed, some of the Colts came to visit. When they walked in, I had the biggest cheesy smile. They wanted to hear Marine stories, and I wanted to hear football stories.
Mr. Irsay heard that we used to go to the same gym in Carmel. While the Colts were in D.C., he sought me out. He told me, “Come see me about a job when you get home.”
Before I joined the Marines, I was a corporate recruiter for Conseco Insurance. 9/11 weighed heavily on my mind—I felt I had a duty to perform. My dad was in the Marine Corps before me.
I used to take everything for granted. Now I appreciate every little thing, every little day you have here.
When I got back to Indy, I saw all my friends first. I wanted them to know I hadn’t changed; I was still the same guy. Then I went to see the Colts about that job.
This interview originally appeared in the January 2011 issue.