Former NFL player Jerome "The Bus" Bettis addressed Penn State Altoona students and members of the community at a lecture April 13, held as part of the campus' Speaker Series. Bettis chronicled his football career, from high school to the NFL. Reflecting on his quest for a Super Bowl championship, Bettis said it was the journey that made him the person he is today and helps him in his post-NFL life.
"The journey makes you a champion," Bettis said. "It wasn’t the (Super Bowl) ring."
He characterized his journey in terms of the different stages of his football career. In high school, he learned about charity and the importance of giving back, as he received a "hand up" at that stage in his life. Playing football at Notre Dame for Lou Holtz gave him the work ethic and the resolve to do his best; his NFL career taught him about the commitment you must make in order to be great. But ultimately, his parents taught him one of his greatest lessons: humility.
Bettis recalled the off-season following his first year in the NFL, when he was named Rookie of the Year. "It was a beautiful day and I was sitting by the pool in L.A. when my mother called," Bettis stated. "She asked me what I was doing and I replied 'sitting by the pool.'" His mother again asked him what he was doing and he again replied that he was sitting by the pool. Then she stated his father wanted to talk to him. And his father asked him what he was doing, to which Bettis gave the same response. And then his dad stated, "What are you doing? You need to come home."
As there was no questioning his dad, Bettis simply went home to Detroit. And, at home, he had chores, like taking out the garbage. "It was embarrassing," Bettis joked. "Here I was, the NFL Rookie of the Year, taking out the trash!"
Ultimately, Bettis understood what his parents were trying to teach him. "They didn’t want success to change who I was as a person," he said. They had seen other athletes negatively impacted by success and they wanted to ensure that their son would not follow that path -- they taught him that "you take out the garbage just like everyone else."
Bettis closed by thanking the crowd for listening to his talk and for supporting the Speaker Series. Proceeds from the evening support the Penn State Altoona Future Fund, which helps students meet emergency needs and supports scholarship. Bettis reinforced with the crowd the importance of their contributions; explaining his strong belief in charity and the importance of giving back, Bettis said, "Charity is the price you pay for the space you occupy."