In just a few short weeks, Jerome Bettis will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. After 13 years in the league and more than 13,500 rushing yards, the honor is certainly well deserved and is the final accomplishment of one of the NFL’s best running backs to ever play the game. He finished his career with the sixth-most rushing yards ever by a running back.
Now despite his storybook career that included six Pro Bowl selections and ended with a Super Bowl, the road for Bettis has not always been smooth.
Bettis is making his promotional rounds as the August 8 induction ceremony gets near. As part of his tour, he sat down with Graham Bensinger for an upcoming episode of “In Depth with Graham Bensinger,” a syndicated sports show. In the interview, Bettis talks extensively about his rough past and the troubles that surrounded him growing up in Detroit.
“The mind-set was, ‘We’re in the hood. Mom and Dad, they’re working their butts off. There’s no money around. We need to make some money.’ So we said, ‘You know what? Let’s give it a shot.’ And it was one of those moments that you regret, but at the moment, that was the only thing that was really available to us.” Bettis said when asked about selling drugs with his brother as a child.
Bensinger then asked whether Bettis ever shot at somebody.
Bettis: “Yeah. That was part of growing up in our environment, in our neighborhood. That wasn’t out of the realm of normal. When you go back, it’s nothing that I ever wanted to glorify, because I know in retrospect that it was awful. Here you are in a position to take someone’s life, and that’s never a good thing. And so as I look back on it now, I always see the wrongs that are in it and never want to bring light to it in that respect: that it was a good thing. It was the worst thing that I could’ve ever done. It was a bad decision, but it was the decision that I made and that I lived with at that moment.”
The interview has much more about Bettis’ childhood in Detroit. You can watch it in full here.
As you can imagine, Bettis grew up in a very bad neighborhood that was in economic turmoil. By the time he went off to college, both houses on either side of him had become crack houses. He was literally surrounded by crime growing up and could have easily gone down the wrong path.
Now as we all know now, he avoided trouble and fought hard to be a good and successful person. He knew football offered a pathway to prosperity and he worked hard to get there. The rest is NFL history.
We have to commend Bettis. Not just for his amazing career or his unbelievable fortitude to get through a challenging youth, but also for speaking out about his troubled past. Young kids who are in the same boat as Bettis once was can use his experience as a sign of hope. Knowing that through hard work anything can be accomplished, even in an area deprived of resources.
Bettis’ story truly is an inspiration to us all. He’s fought hard to get to this position and he’s adamant about helping the underprivileged youth. His foundation, The Bus Stops Here Foundation, has helped thousands. The foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for troubled and less fortunate youth by offering programs to help.