Jerome Bettis was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Game tonight and in front of a sea of Steelers fans, former players, coaches, friends, the ‘Bus’ was flawless in delivering a 34 minute speech.
As Bettis said tonight, the ‘Bus” will forever run in Canton, Ohio.
“I really thought ‘The Bus’ last stop was in Detroit at Super Bowl XL, but now I know The ‘Bus’ will always and forever run in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Bettis said.
Bettis thanked many on the night starting with his wife Trameka who he called “the most important person” in his life right now for the sacrifices she makes in him now pursuing a second career in television and business.
A great moment was Bettis acknowledging his daughter, Jada, who Bettis mentioned was born premature and he never knew if she was going to make it, and the reaction on her face when he was describing how important she was to him was one of the great scenes of the night.
The one time Bettis got a little choked up on the night was talking about his father Johnnie who past away about eight years ago.
“He taught me how to be a man,” Bettis said. “He had two jobs, worked to the bone, never complaining, never asking for a break. All while supporting three children. He was the strongest man I will ever know, and it’s because of him that I am here.”
A turning point in Bettis life he said was when he was 16 years old at the Reggie McKenzie Football camp and realized he might have a chance to play professional football. Bettis noted McKenzie taking the time to go back each summer to Detroit where many stay away from to try to have an impact on young black kids always stuck with him and had a significant impact on his life.
Bettis thanked McKenzie graciously for changing his life.
“Reggie, you changed my life. So thank you. Thank you, Reggie,” Bettis said. “Reggie McKenzie was an outstanding football player who had no reason to come back to Highland Park but he did it for a lot for young black kids and he made a difference to all of us.”
Bettis talked about how important Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz was in motivating him in such unconventional ways and Bettis noted how the impact Holtz had on his football career didn’t end in college.
Bettis said when he was playing like crap in St. Louis and losing the love of the game early in his career, Holtz told him to come back to Notre Dame during the off-season and find that love again and Bettis found it and a trade to Pittsburgh happened that year where his Hall of Fame career was made.
Bettis thanked many in the Steelers organization starting with Tom Donahoe for trading for him and long-time running backs coach Dick Hoak who Bettis praised for not trying to change him like so many coaches do and just let him “run.”
Bill Cowher was not at the ceremony due to his daughters wedding but Bettis made sure to make it known how important Cowher was on his career and saying Cowher deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
“Coach [Cowher], you are one of the biggest reasons I stand here today, and I hope someday you stand here next to me because you deserve it,” Bettis said. “Coach I know you’re in Ireland and your daughter probably has already gotten married, but I just want you to have a pint for No. 36.”
Several of Bettis’ former teammates were in attendance and Bettis thanked Ben Roethlisberger for saving his butt against the Colts in the playoffs.
“A special thanks to a couple of my teammates. Alan Faneca. Hines Ward. Troy Polamalu. Joey Porter,” Bettis said. And Ben Roethlisberger. Brother, without you saving that tackle, I still might be on the doorstep, brother. I owe you for life. Hopefully all of you guys will stand next to me in the Hall of Fame.”
Bettis throughout his speech wasn’t just about football, he was about delivering a life message and he delivered.