Turning tragedy into inspiration

March 8, 2011 8:41:23 PM PST
A former Philadelphia Eagle is motivating others to chase their dreams.

Kevin Reilly had always dreamed of playing football for his hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles. He got that chance in 1973. And even as his NFL career began to take shape, he still couldn't believe it.

"Imagine standing in this tunnel, getting ready to be introduced, I'm checking my back to see if my name is on my jersey," he said.

At the time Reilly says he felt invincible. But he wasn't.

Just a few years later, he found himself in the hospital with a rare tumor known as a desmoid tumor growing by his left shoulder. It is an aggressive tumor that can spread quickly and cut off blood supply to surrounding structures and organs.

Doctors had to amputate his left arm, his shoulder and four ribs to get rid of it.

When he woke up after an 11.5-hour surgery, he said depression sank in.

"The morning started out with me having a lot of negative thoughts, how would I recover, how would I make a living, I had children that were two, one and an infant at the time."

Reilly was also told all the stuff he wouldn't be able to do such as tie a tie which he now does effortlessly with one hand in front of audiences including teachers groups, businessmen and women and students. It's part of his motivational speech.

Reilly said it was Rocky Bleier, also a former NFL-player who had faced his own hardships, that picked him up when he was down.

"One of the things he told me is I mustn't quit on anything unless I try it three times and he made me promise that and that was the beginning of a turnaround mentally," Reilly said.

That turnaround lead to Reilly spending 30 years working with a fortune 500 company. And he achieved another dream. He became a broadcaster announcing games for the Eagles Television Network and for WYSP radio.

He now tell others: chase your dreams and whatever your obstacle, believe you can overcome it. Set a goal and do something every day to get closer to reaching that goal.

"We're in a recession right now and so many people feel like they are victims and they're waiting for the economy to turn around, why wait? What are you doing to be better yourself? Take a class, something you always wanted to do, maybe get healthy, stop smoking, stop drinking," Reilly said, adding, "If you are consistently persistent at achieving your goal, you may not reach that goal but you will come a lot further than the average guy if you continue to go at it."

Reilly also recommends making a plan as to how to reach your goals. Write down what you are going to do every day to get closer to that goal. And tell people about it. Friends and family can help keep you motivated.

He said a positive attitude goes a long way.