When Jerome Bettis stood on the stage at the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2015, he thanked many who meant the most to him in life and in his playing career.
While he would have loved to have thanked every teammate, he knew time was limited. So he thanked five. Five that had an impact on him. Five that made a difference.
And the first one was his former guard, Alan Faneca.
"I mentioned Alan because he was an elite offensive lineman, one of the best I ever played with," said Bettis. "He is worthy of being in the Hall of Fame as well because of his exceptional play and his extended length of greatness."
Faneca is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017, a class that will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 4, during the NFL Honors Awards show. Faneca was the Steelers first-round draft pick in 1998 and played 10 seasons for the black and gold, and 13 overall in the NFL. He was a member of the Super Bowl XL Championship team, and was selected to nine Pro Bowls. Faneca was a six-time All-Pro selection and was named to the Steelers All-Time Team in 2007 and the NFL 2000's All-Decade Team.
This is the second year that Faneca has been a finalist, and Bettis feels strongly that he should take his rightful spot among the best ever to play the game.
"Alan was critical to my career because whenever we went into a situation where we had an offensive lineman move, Alan was always the guy to trap," said Bettis. "He would run the counters or the powers or the traps. He had such versatility as a guard that we could move him. With his athleticism and agility, we were able to move in and create the holes on the opposite side of the line.
Check out the greatest photos of Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca.
"Also, he was a stud on the left side of the line. He gave us the ability to be strong running to the left, or if we wanted to pull linemen he was the one pulling because of his athleticism.
"His ability to play that position, dominate at that position, but be athletic enough to move around and travel from the standpoint of pulling as an offensive lineman, that is rare. Usually when you do it, it doesn't end in success. When Alan pulled we had a tremendous amount of success with our ability to pull."
Bettis will return to Canton, Ohio in August for the annual enshrinement ceremony. And there is nothing he wants more than to be on the stage and watch Faneca enjoy his special moment. It's a moment he feels he deserves now.
"He is one of the biggest reasons that I wear a Gold Jacket today," said Bettis. "While he is thanking others, I will be thanking him inside because of his tremendous work ethic and ability which helped me get to the Hall of Fame."