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Bettis' mom is right by his side


CANTON, Ohio - Gladys Bettis has been by her son Jerome Bettis' side for every step of his football career, from the day he began playing in high school, to Notre Dame, and then the NFL. Neither she, nor his late father John Bettis who passed away shortly after Jerome retired, missed his games or the special moments in his life.

But the one thing that disappointed her was not being able to be with Bettis when he learned the news that he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2015.

While she would have loved more than anything to be by her son's side, she went through her final chemo treatment in her battle with breast cancer that week and wasn't able to travel from Detroit, Michigan to Phoenix, Arizona to be there with him for the announcement. But her heart was there.

"I was there in spirit," she said. "It was the greatest moment. When I got to the phone he said 'Mom, I made it, I made it.' Both of us were crying. It's the best thing that could have ever happened. He said, 'I miss dad.' I told him I know, but I'll tell him. I told him I have this, I got it. I talk to him so much.

"It couldn't get any better than that. It was the sweetest, the best ever."

Bettis' parents almost took on as much of a celebrity status as he had during his days with the Steelers. They would often come from Detroit for the games, in what else but a bus. While John Bettis was quiet and reserved, Gladys has always been outgoing and fans would ask her to pose for pictures and they would just stop and talk with her heading into Three Rivers Stadium or Heinz Field.

They were there for the entire ride, in the snow, rain, heat, preseason, regular season, and playoffs.

And now, Gladys is in Canton, Ohio for the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, something she really didn't understand the magnitude of until he was finally selected.

"I did not realize what it was," she explained. "I knew it was the top of the game. I really didn't know how much it meant. Jerome knew and he knew he wanted it. I feel like he is supposed to have this. It was the next step of where he was going, the final step. But I had no idea how great that final step was, the legends, the greatness of it until I listened to him and he talked about it.

Photos from the career of former Steelers running back and Hall of Fame finalist Jerome Bettis.

"When we started in this quest it wasn't to play football, it was to get an academic scholarship and the football came along. It's another blessing Jerome and our family had. We found out he could play football. He didn't play as a child, it was bowling. It was about academics because he is a smart guy. I never thought we would start with a scholarship and go on to the NFL and then here, until we got into it."

The final blessing is not that Bettis is headed to the Hall of Fame, but that his mother's battle with breast cancer is one she is beating. She finished her treatments and is feeling, as she said, fantastic.

"My whole career has been about my family's journey," said Jerome. "Everyone has been a part of my success in terms of my family. My mom going through the breast cancer and having her fight, and the fact that I can bring some joy to that and give her something that she can take with her through her journey has been incredible."

So on the Saturday night she will be there, not just in spirit this time, but in person.

"I am excited. I can't wait. It's going to happen," she said. "Through this illness I have been praying God please let me be here to see this. I know that's what's in his head. Don't take her, we started with him and let's finish with him and that's what I am going to do."

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