Steve Bellisari: You Have to Have a Team Mentality

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Though pro football’s a decade in the rearview mirror, Steve Bellisari can still rattle off the stops of his professional career in photographic detail. Drafted as a QB out of Ohio State in 2002, Bellisari’s athleticism allowed him to convert to the secondary in the NFL; a catastrophic knee injury put his pro dreams on hold. Back under center, and back in his old Ohio stomping grounds, Bellisari helped the Dayton Warbirds of the National Indoor Football League to a playoff run in 2005. That showing led to an Arena 2 season with the Manchester (NH) Wolves, a stint with the Kansas City Brigade of the Arena Football League, then two prolific seasons with the AFL’s New Orleans VooDoo. 

Bellisari acknowledges that, as a prep star in Boca Raton, FL, the career he envisioned for himself was less itinerant: a multi-year starter in the NFL, a seamless transition into coaching. But when Bellisari tells you he feels fortunate, you can’t possibly doubt it. The married father of three is now a fast-rising executive at Fortune 500 medical technologies giant Stryker Corporation. After excelling at regional offices in Lexington, Dallas, and Pittsburgh, Bellisari earned the roster spot he’s always been working toward—Stryker global headquarters, in Kalamazoo, MI. He spoke to The D10 about recently forming a Stryker Medical team to compete in The D10 Chicago on August 11. 

What has competitive athletics meant to your life?
I wouldn’t be where I was today if not for athletics. That goes for my professional as well as my personal life. The discipline of practicing every day, of doing things others aren’t willing to do—as a worker in a professional environment, I don’t know how it doesn’t give you an advantage. And in terms of family, as a husband and a father, athletics prepares you for those challenges too. You have to have a team mentality. 

What about The D10 inspired you to register to compete?
I learned about it on LinkedIn, and I talked to some buddies, did some research. For a former college athlete who has transitioned into the corporate world, The D10 is unique because it fills the philanthropy bucket while being competitive at the same time. 

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From left: Elias, Steve, Trevor and Nathan

How did you go about assembling the Stryker team?

All four of us are directly connected through our business, but I tried to be strategic about picking guys based on the skills I don’t have. I’m not a Pull-Up guy, but that’s why we’ve got Trevor Hurley. Nathan Twork’s my bench press guy. He’s got 15 years at Stryker. He’s a little top-heavy. You can write that down. I think Nathan forgot a leg day once or twice. Elias Waked was a kicker at University of Central Florida, and he’s a great skill athlete. As for me, at my Pro Day, I ran 4.5/4.6 in the 40, but I can guarantee you it's not going to be that now. I like to think I have an advantage on the football throw. 

The D10 record in the football throw is 79 yards; what are you shooting for?
I’m going to shoot for 70, but honestly the most I’ve thrown a football lately is with my kids in the backyard. I’m gonna have to start warming up. I haven’t aired one out in a while. 

How's the drive from Kalamazoo to Chicago?
It's about two, two and a half hours. The team and I are going to make a weekend of it: generate some interest, get some more folks involved. We're going to have fun, and hopefully raise a ton of money for a good cause