Canton, Ohio – As Jerome Bettis made his way through the sea of returning Hall of Famers, all of them congratulating him, hugging him and welcoming him to the family, his smile got wider and wider.
It was real. He was headed through that gauntlet of football legends, including fellow former Steelers Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Mel Blount.
And now he too, is one of those legends.
"That is what made it so sweet," said Bettis. "I got welcomed by players that I watched when I was a kid. That is when it becomes very special. To know that I am now a part of that group, it's a special feeling."
While the official Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement won't be held until Saturday night, Bettis received his iconic Gold Jacket on Thursday night along with the rest of the Class of 2015 at a dinner held at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
With friends and family on hand to witness it, including many of his former Steelers' teammates, his brother John Bettis put the jacket on him.
It's a moment he will never forget.
"It was special. It means that you are in," said Bettis. "You think about the Gold Jacket, what it signifies. It means class. It means that I am in the Hall of Fame.
"I have a Gold Jacket and that is something I get to keep, my family gets to keep. It's a special thing."
Jerome Bettis puts on his Hall of Fame gold jacket for the first time.