Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis took the stage to give a speech upon his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"The Bus," a six-time Pro Bowler known for his powerful running style, came out to roars from a heavily pro-Steelers crowd that made the trip to Canton, Ohio to see him speak. Donning his Super Bowl ring, Bettis emerged with a smile on his face.
Bettis led Steelers fans, swinging their trademark towels, in a chant as he opened his speech. He paid tribute to the late Junior Seau before thanking his wife, kids, parents and other family members with the honesty and sense of humor that helped make him popular during his playing days.
“Sometimes you remember exactly when it was you were inspired to be great,” Bettis said, reflecting on his childhood in Detroit. He discussed a day he spent at the Reggie McKenzie football camp as a teenager around McKenzie and other NFL players who helped motivate him in particular. McKenzie, now the GM of the Oakland Raiders, played linebacker from 1985-1992. Bettis said he asked McKenzie why he ran the camp, and McKenzie responded that changing one kid's life would make it worth it. Bettis told McKenzie, who was in attendance, that he'd become one of those kids. “Reggie, you've changed my life. So thank you.”
Bettis spent the final 10 seasons of his 13-year career in Pittsburgh after a stint with the Rams, helping lead the team to a title in 2006, with the Super Bowl the final game of his final season. He finished with 13,662 yards rushing (sixth-most all time), with an average of 3.9 yards per carry and 94 total touchdowns.
He thanked numerous others including former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, also in attendance. “You were the best coach an 18-year-old kid could ever have. You taught me not just football lessons, but life lessons...in the most unconventional ways.” He told a story of Holtz embarrassing him in front of the entire team, saying Bettis would cost the team the national championship and that they'd have to sort him out. A difficult practice followed. “That day, I learned the true meaning of humility, and I developed a work ethic.” Bettis said. “Time and time again, you taught me what love meant playing football.”
And of course, Bettis thanked the Steelers organization, where he spent he majority of his career, including coaches, ownership, teammates, and fans. “Thank you for embracing me and my entire family as your own. But thank you most importantly for your support of not only me, but my entire team, as we went out and played the game that we loved, and knew that we had the support from the greatest football fans in the world.”
“I've been blessed to have the best teammates you could ever have,” Bettis said, before asking a large contingent of current and former Steelers players, as well as many of his former college and high school teammates to stand up. “They gave me everything they had, every time we stepped on the football field. We knew we were a family and that we would get the job done.”
Bettis specially thanked former and current Steelers Alan Faneca, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter and Ben Roethlisberger, specifically mentioning the quarterback's famous game-saving tackle during a 2006 playoff game against the Colts “Brother, without you [making] that tackle, I still might be on the doorstep, brother. I owe you for life. All of you guys, I hope, will stand next to me someday in the Hall of Fame.”
“I really thought the bus's last stop was in Detroit, at Super Bowl XL,” Bettis said in conclusion “But now I know it will always and forever run in Canton, Ohio—home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
- Jeremy Woo