He was one of pro football's most beloved and respected stars, admired not only by NFL fans and his own teammates, but by his opponents as well. Super Bowl champion; six time Pro Bowler; NFL Comeback Player of the Year; NFL Man of the Year; fifth all-time leading rusher in the NFL; future Hall of Famer; now NBC Sports commentator.
You may think you know Jerome Bettis, but you don't.
In The Bus, Jerome Bettis tells his full, unvarnished story for the first time--from his sometimes troubled childhood in inner-city Detroit to his difficult transition at Notre Dame, to a pro coach who almost caused him to quit the game, to a trade for the ages that resulted in ten glorious seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As a chunky child wearing glasses, Jerome's only sports-related aspiration was to become a professional bowler. But growing up in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Detroit, he eventually found his escape on the high school football field, thanks to the devotion of hard-working parents, a concerned coach, and his prodigious talent. He arrived at Notre Dame as one of the nation's best prep players, but despite his incredible performances, he never stopped worrying that he would somehow blow his chance to make good. Drafted and later discarded by the Los Angeles Rams, it was in the football-obsessed city of Pittsburgh that Jerome found his home and became a legend.
The Bus captures the sweetness and honesty of Bettis, but also details the jaw-dropping, violent nature of the game he loved, the mind-boggling injuries he endured, and the cut-throat NFL business tactics he overcame and later mastered. Through it all, Jerome was also a loving son, an adoring father, and the ultimate teammate and mentor.
The Bus not only takes you under the helmet, but inside the huddle, the locker room, the practice field, the negotiating table, the owner's office, and the Super Bowl sideline. You'll learn how Bettis became The Bus, how he helped engineer the greatest trade in Steelers history, how he almost cost Pittsburgh a conference championship, and how sweet it was to win--finally--one for the thumb.
The National Football League's fifth all-time leading rusher tells of his journey from growing up on Detroit's mean streets to playing for the 2006 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. As a child, Bettis wore nerdy glasses and preferred bowling. In high school, he began playing football, but also started running with a smalltime neighborhood gang that sold drugs and carried firearms. He credits his escape from crime to his high school coach and his parents for laying down the law as well as the shock of seeing a friend get shot. A highly recruited high school player, he played three years at Notre Dame before turning pro with the Rams (both L.A. and St. Louis). During the latter part of his 13-year career, he had to compete for playing time and deal with a litany of injuries. For his last pro football game, he returned triumphantly to Detroit, which hosted the 2006 Super Bowl. Writing in an easygoing, honest voice, Bettis gives readers a good look at the inside stories of college recruiting, professional contracts and the agony of NFL injuries. He also dishes out opinions on players, calling former Rams quarterback Jim Everett soft as puppy fur and Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski a coward who specialized in cheap shots. (Aug.)
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-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 03, 2007
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Excerpt from The Bus by Jerome Bettis
January 15, 2006
AFC Divisional Playoff
Pittsburgh Steelers v. Indianapolis Colts
Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt sat nervously in the visiting team coaches booth of the RCA Dome. A once ear-splitting sellout crowd of 57,449 was now strangely subdued, as if their mouths had been duct-taped shut. Only eighty seconds stood between the Steelers and a second consecutive trip to the AFC Championship game. Pittsburgh led, 21-18, and had the ball on the Colts' 2-yard line.
The reality of the situation had become depressingly clear to the hometown fans. Not only did the Steelers have four downs to cover just 2 yards for the game-clinching score, but the mass transit system known as Jerome "The Bus" Bettis was jogging toward the Pittsburgh huddle. It was over. The Colts, favored by as many as ten points by the Las Vegas wise guys, were going to lose. It would take the Colts the football equivalent of Pittsburgh's fabled 1972 Immaculate Reception, to save them.
Whisenhunt discussed the Steelers' options with head coach Bill Cowher. There were two choices:
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could take three snaps and then take a knee three consecutive times, forcing the Colts to use each of their remaining timeouts. Then the Steelers could kick a chip-shot field goal on fourth down, meaning Colts quarterback Peyton Manning would have about a minute, maybe less, to attempt a touchdown drive with no timeouts remaining against the AFC's No. 1 defense.
Or they could do what they had done for years: Give the ball to Bettis.
Whisenhunt knew if the Steelers scored to move ahead by ten the Colts couldn't possibly recover. Whisenhunt recommended the Steelers board the Bus.
"You give the ball to Jerome because Jerome doesn't fumble," he told Cowher and the other offensive assistants. "We're OK because Jerome doesn't fumble."
Whisenhunt called for a goal-line formation. The play was a no-brainer: Counter 38 Power. Bettis could run it with his eyes squeezed shut. Nobody in Steelers history has run that play better than Bettis. Of his 10,000-plus yards gained in a Pittsburgh uniform, it would be fair to say that at least a third of those yards had come on Counter 38 Power.
The Steelers offense took the field. The safest rushing play in the team's Old Testament-thick playbook had been called.
In a nearby broadcast booth, the team of WBGG-AM radio play-by-play announcer Bill Hillgrove, who had spent twelve years as "The Voice of the Steelers," and analyst Tunch Ilkin, a former Pittsburgh All-Pro offensive tackle, told their listeners on the forty-seven-station, three-state-wide Steelers network that the game was done. The last eighty seconds? A formality, nothing more.
As the Steelers broke the huddle, Hillgrove described the action.
Hillgrove: Now the ball's at the 2-yard line. It's gone over on downs to Pittsburgh. They have a first and goal and they've got Jerome Bettis in that lineup.
Ilkin: For all you fantasy football players out there that have Jerome you've got to be very excited right now.
Hillgrove: Wouldn't it be nice for him to get his second touchdown of the game? Here's the give to Jerome. He has it and--
Ilkin: Oh! Fumble! Fumble! He picked it up-oh, no!
Hillgrove: The ball is fumbled... and the Colts pick it up! Look out!
Ilkin: Oh, no! My gosh! Oh, my gosh!
Hillgrove: Nick Harper has it--
Ilkin: Oh, my gosh! Somebody's got to tackle him!
Hillgrove: Big Ben tackles him. He tackles him at the 42-yard line.
Ilkin: Oh, my gosh!
Hillgrove: Jerome Bettis, who rarely fumbles, fumbles at the goal line. Nick Harper picks it up and the Colts are still alive with 1:01 to go!
Ilkin: Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! All you got to do is fall on the ball! What a turn of events! OK, now you got 1:01 left, right? The Colts got the ball on the 42-yard line. The game is not over. Cancel the reservations to Denver. We got to finish this one out here. Unbelievable! I just can't believe what I just saw. The Steelers hand the ball off to Jerome with 1:20. All you gotta do is take three in a row quarterback sneaks...The Steelers are lucky that that ball isn't run in for a touchdown by Harper. If it wasn't for Ben Roethlisberger making a shoestring tackle the game's over the other way.
Whisenhunt and the other assistants were in shock. Bettis fumble? How was that possible? Bettis hadn't fumbled once in the entire 2005 season. He'd only fumbled ten times in his last six seasons, only forty-one times in 3,479 regular season carries.