Jerome Bettis Enshrinement speech
Well, listen here. We've got to get one thing understood here tonight. We are in Canton, Ohio, but this is Steeler Country. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE].
I let my classmate borrow my towel, so I need another towel. Here we go Steelers, here we go. Here we go Steelers, here we go. [Crowd chanting].
Now I'm at home. Yes, indeed.
I want to first thank God because through him all things have been possible in my life. I want to congratulate my other classmates for their amazing careers and this incredible honor, but I especially want to give a few words to the Seau family and their children, and I want you to know that your father exemplifies everything that a Hall of Famer stands for. He was an incredible football player. I know. I played against him. We had a lot of battles. But he was a better person than he was a football player. So, rest in knowing that his legacy will live on forever in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
To the Hall of Famers, thank you for welcoming all of us onto the greatest team of all time. Special thanks to my family and friends who have traveled the globe to get here to celebrate this moment with me. Thank you very much.
Now, I want to take you on a bus ride that started at 10384 Aurora in Detroit, Michigan, and has ended up at 2121 George Halas Drive, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But I can never stand here and accept all the credit for my success. So please understand that this night, it's not about me. It's about all those who have impacted my life. But unfortunately I can't stand here and name all of you, but believe me, just because your name is not mentioned does not mean your importance in my life is any less significant.
I would like to first start by acknowledging the person that is the most important person in my life right now, and that's my wife, Trameka. Trameka, stand. Stand up, baby. I want the world to meet you, because you are the real superstar in our family. Your unselfishness has allowed me to finish one career and to start two other careers, one in business and another in television, all while knowing both would take me away from you and our kids. So, baby, thank you for allowing me to live my dream and taking care of us. Thank you, baby.
My daughter, Jada. Hey, baby. You changed my life when you came into this world because you came in as a preemie, not knowing whether you would live or die, you showed me what fight really was. You convinced me I needed to come back for another year and I needed to fight for a chance to win a championship. So, baby, thank you, Jada.
To my son, Jerome, Jr. I see myself in you every time I look at you, and as I look back at myself at your age, you're smarter than me, better athlete than I was. Not as good looking (laughing). But, son, you have greatness running through your blood, and it's not from me, it's from our family, my mother, my father, your mother, their father, and her mother. I want you to understand why I push you so hard. It's because I want you to be a better man than me, but more importantly a better person than I could ever be. And I know you can do that.
To my sister, Kimberly. Kim, you never say it a lot, but I always knew the love was there. As much as I don't, and our brother John, won't say, but you helped raise us back in those years, and you're still helping to raise our kids today. You never asked for anything, and you sacrificed yourself for us, never once complaining and saying, what about me? I owe you. No, we owe you a debt of gratitude. I love you.
To my brother, my presenter, my big brother, I first want to thank you for stepping in for our father who is no longer with us. But I also want to thank you for beating up on me when we were kids. I want to thank you for making me tough. I also want to thank you for making all the mistakes when we were young so I knew exactly what not to do. I also want to thank you for letting me play with your friends, because it was with those guys who were four years older than me, that's where I got my toughness, my courage and my strength. So, big bro, I appreciate that.
We lost our father about eight years ago, and up until that point I always felt that I was the tough brother, you know, because obviously he's a little shorter than me, not as good looking as I am, but when my father passed away I learned why he's my big brother, because he stepped in and without hesitation did everything that he had to do to take care of our father's business. So, bro, thank you for being a big brother.
I want to thank my mother, Gladys Bettis. We call her Bigtime. How can I thank a woman who through the entire course of my career came to every single football game I ever played in the NFL. Through you and dad I learned what good parenting really is. And a little over a year ago, we found out that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it scared and changed all of our lives. But in that moment I realized where my toughness and where my strength really came from, because she handled it like a champion. She took care of everything she needed to take care of so that she could be here for us, for her grandchildren, and for the entire family. So, Mom, thank you for being a role model, an incredible parent, and a leader. Thank you, Mom.
When people used to ask me growing up, who was my hero? I would always say, my dad. My dad was my hero. He was my biggest fan. This is tough here. He taught me how to be a man. You see, he had two jobs. He worked to the bone. Never complaining, never asking for a break. All that while supporting three children. He was the strongest man I will ever know, and it's because of him that I am here. When my father sent me off to college, he told me one thing. He said, “Son, I'm sending you off to school. I don't have much to give you, but I have a good name. So don't mess it up.” Well, Dad, I hope I made you proud.
Special thanks to my uncle Leroy, who is no longer with us as well because he was the one who spotted of me playing football in front of the house and told my mother, that boy needs to be playing football. See, he was a high school football coach, so he could spot talent. So he told my mother, the boy needs to play football. And that changed my life. So my uncle Leroy, I owe him a debt of gratitude as well. Sometimes you remember exactly when it was when you were inspired to be great. I remember that day. It was in Detroit. It was actually at Highland Park. It was at the Reggie McKenzie football camp. I was there, Pepper Johnson, linebacker for the New York Giants. He was the director of this camp, and he brought all of his friends there, Hall of Famer Cris Carter, he was there, Keena Turner, Bobby Abrams, there were so many guys that were there.
And Reggie McKenzie said at the end of one practice, “who is going to be the next one? Who is going to be the next one?” So me feeling something inside of me I ran up to Reggie and I said, Reggie, I'm going to be the next one. I'm sure he's looking at me, snot nosed 16 year old kid and said, okay. He said, we'll see, we'll see. And that day my life was changed. You see, in that football camp there was another gentleman named Keith Byers. He put his arms around me, Pepper put their arms around me, and they told me that I could be good. I could be a professional football player, and that's the first time I really thought that the possibility existed, that there was a chance that I could take this to the next level.
But all I wanted to do at the time was get a college education. So my goal was to get to college. I got a chance to get there. But Reggie, I went up to Reggie and I said, Reggie, why do you do this football camp? You don't make any money on it. You ask these guys to come for me. He said if I get a chance to impact one kids' life, then I've made a difference. Well, Reggie, you've changed my life, so thank you. Thank you, Reggie.
You see, Reggie McKenzie was an outstanding football player. He had no reason to come back to Highland Park, but he did for a lot of young, black kids, in the city of Detroit and Highland Park, and he made a difference to all of us. So, Reggie, you are a success story, brother.
My freshman year I went to a high school. I just want to acknowledge my high school coach, he is no longer with us, Coach Hoskins.
I want to talk about my high school coach for a second. His name is Robert Dozier. I know he's here and his coaching staff is here. Coach, I want to say thank you. Thank you, Coach, because it was you who came into our house when I was starting to go down the wrong path, and Coach Dozier, he said, “Son, you have a chance to be special. I've coached some great football players in my day, and you've got a chance to be special, but you've got to go on the right path,” and it changed my life and turned my life around. So, Coach, those were important words, but not the most important words you gave me. You see, I was an All American linebacker. I loved splitting people's head open. And my high school coach said, “Son, you're only 5'10.5". Your daddy was only 5'10". You're not going to be much taller. So your best option is to play running back.” And I was discouraged, but, Coach, you were right. You were right. I still think I may have gotten here as a linebacker, but Coach, you were right. I want to thank you for that.
I've been fortunate to have some great friends in my life. Al Costa and his family, Chuck Sanders, his family, Tom Seabron, his family, Greg Eastman and his family, Deral Boykin, Eddie George and his family, Thomas (Indiscernible) and his family. But Jahmal Dokes, my business manager, has been my best friend since 10th grade. He's been with me through thick and thin, and they say in life, if you have one true friend that you are blessed. Well, I know I'm blessed with you, Jahmal. So thank you, brother.
I want to thank the University of Notre Dame for taking a chance on a young kid from Detroit. Going to school truly changed my life. I want to thank Lou Holtz. Coach Holtz, could you stand? Coach Holtz and his wife, Beth, could you please stand? There they are. Coach, well, it almost didn't happen because coach sent one of his assistants to come see me.
So he came to the high school in Detroit. I told you I'm from Detroit, Michigan, in the city of Detroit, now. He sent one of his assistant coaches. The assistant coach came in with a big old Cadillac. He parked next to another Cadillac. Came in, he talked to the coaches. There were a couple coaches there. He came in, talked, he went outside, and there were two white Cadillacs and one of them was gone. Luckily, it wasn't the coaches from Notre Dame that was gone.
But, Coach, you were the best coach an 18 year old kid could ever have. You taught me not just football lessons, but life lessons. You taught me them though in probably the most unconventional way. I've got to say. Like when you told the entire team that there was this young football player that was going to cost us a National Championship. Everybody's looking around like, what? Who is going to cost us a National Championship?
He said, Jerome Bettis, would you stand up? At that point my heart shrunk. I couldn't believe what he had done. Then he told the players you guys work it out. You figure it out. You straighten him out. So needless to say that was the hardest practice I've ever had in my life. And after that practice he came up to me and said, he said, how was practice? I said, Coach, it was the worst practice I've ever had. He said, well, I was just trying to motivate you.
But that day, I learned the true meaning of humility, and I developed an incredible work ethic because I was going to outwork every guy there was. And, Coach, time and time again you taught me what love meant playing football. I got a phone call. I was having some rough times with the Rams, and I decided that I was going to leave and go back to school. Coach called me up and said, “who was this imposter wearing 36 for the Rams?” I said, well, Coach, that was me.
He said, “no, that wasn't. That was not you. That was an imposter. That guy didn't love the game of football.” He said, “You need to come back here and you need to develop that love for the game.” And I went back and I got traded to Pittsburgh, and the love came back.
So thank you, Coach, for not just being a coach for three or four years, but being a coach to all of us for a lifetime. Thanks, Coach.
To my one and only football agent, Lamont Smith. I want to thank you for helping to secure my family's future. You have been much more than an agent. You have been a confidante and a very, very close friend. Thank you.
To the Los Angeles Rams, I want to thank Chuck Knox for drafting me and saying that, you know what, you're not a fullback, you can play tailback. Because I saw what the fullbacks were making and I saw what the tailbacks were making, and I said, yeah, Coach, I can be a tailback (laughing).
Chuck Harris, my running back coach. I want to thank him for helping me make that transition from fullback to tailback. It took a lot of work, but he was patient and he worked with me. So, thank you.
To my teammates with the Rams. I want to thank those guys because they did a lot in helping a young football player, and one in particular is sitting behind me, Jackie Slater. I came to the Rams a young guy, and Jackie showed me how to be a professional in this game. He was in the last years of playing, but he handled himself with grace and class, and Jackie, I'll never forget that. Thank you.
To the Steelers, I've got to thank Tom Donahue for trading for me. I'd like to think it was a great trade. I'd like to thank my running back coach, Dick Hoak. I saw him out here. Coach, stand up. I know you're out here somewhere. There he is. Coach Hoak was the running back coach for not only me but for Franco Harris as well. Coach, I want to thank you for not changing anything about me when I got there and allowing me the freedom to run with my eyes. Some coaches want to direct you into a hole that was not your style.
You said, do what God gave you the ability to do and that's run. Thank you for letting me sleep in the meeting rooms from time to time. It was either that or help you coach, and I knew that was out of the question. But you always kept us prepared, and you always had us ready to play, and you have impacted my life tremendously. I would not be here without you. Thanks, Coach.
Coach Bill Cowher, he was exactly the type of coach I needed to succeed. He was a blue collared football coach. He believed in running the football and playing great defense behind us. More than anything though, I want to thank him for having ultimate trust in that when he put me in the game in 1996 against Jacksonville Jaguars to Super bowl XL. He knew exactly what he was going to get from No. 36 every time he stepped on the field. Coach, 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. 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. Thanks, Coach.
To Art Rooney, I want to thank you for your friendship outside of football. Thank you for listening when I needed to talk and for talking when I needed to listen. You have and continue to be a person I can confide in and learn from, thank you.
Dan Rooney, I want to thank you for believing in me and thank you for seeing the person that I am first and the football player that I was second. I still remember when you stopped me in the hallway and you saw concern on my eyes because there was talk about me not being there anymore. And you told me you go when I go. And at that point I knew I was going to be there for a long time because you weren't going anywhere. Mr. Rooney, thank you for having ultimate trust and faith in me and that I would carry the banner of the Steelers organization forward. I appreciate that. Thank you.
To Steeler Nation, I need those terrible towels going. That's what I'm talking about. You've got to show these guys what real football fans look like. I want to thank you all for appreciating the power running game. Three yards in a cloud of dust was far better than a 40 yard bomb down the football field. 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 a game that we loved and knew we had the support from the best football fans in the world [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE].
I've been blessed to have the best teammates you could ever have, and I want those guys, all those guys who came to support me, to stand up. Stand up, guys. But I want the guys that played with me at Notre Dame to stand up. Rick Mirer, Tracey Graham, Raghib Ismail, Cliff Stroud, the guys at Mackenzie High School, stand up, guys. There you guys are. There are my guys. I've had the best teammates a player could ever ask for. They gave me everything they had every time we stepped on the football field. Sometimes it wasn't wins, but we knew that we were a family and that we would get the job done.
A special thanks to a couple of my teammates, Alan Faneca, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, and Ben Roethlisberger. Brother, without you saving that tackle, I still might be on the doorsteps, brother. I owe you for life. All of you guys hopefully will stand next to me some day some in the Hall of Fame.
To my ESPN family, I want to thank you for allowing me to grow and have a voice. Tom Jackson, congratulations on a tremendous award. And the one thing I want people to remember from this night, not that I have a great family that has continued to support me, I do, not that I had the best fans a player could ever have, I did, not that I played with the greatest teammates a guy could ever have, I did that as well, or that I played for the best organization in all of sports, I did as well.
I want people to remember that greatness is not a sports term. Greatness is not a sports term. It's a life term. I believe there are four things that get you to greatness.
One, you've got to have the ability to sacrifice, and a lot of times that means sacrificing the relationships that mean the most to you.
The second thing is pain. You're going to have to endure some type of pain in your life, whether physical or mental, you've got to find a way to endure.
The third one is failure. You've got to have the ability and understand that you're going to fail. But it's how you recover that makes you a better person.
And the last, the fourth one is love. Because if you love it then it's not a job, it's a passion. If you love it, you're willing to sacrifice for it, you're willing to go through all types of pains for it I love you too you are willing to go through that failure and understand that I will be successful. And if you go through those four things and you understand those and you can handle those, then success is in your path and greatness is available to you.
In closing, I wish to leave one last message to my son. "Son, there is not much that I can give you that's more important than our good name, so don't screw it up."
And last, I thought, I really thought The Bus's 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, thank you.