The Steelers will have a huge presence in Canton, Ohio later this summer, with Bill Cowher, Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell being enshrined as members of the Class of 2020 on Aug. 7, and Alan Faneca as a member of the Class of 2021 on Aug. 8. In addition, Bill Nunn was enshrined in April as a member of the Class of 2021 and will be recognized during the ceremony as well. Leading up to the enshrinement, we will feature some Hall of Fame stories and moments as part of the Countdown to Canton.
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When Jerome Bettis announced his retirement following the Steelers win in Super Bowl XL, standing on the podium at Ford Field in his hometown of Detroit, he said, "I am a champion and I think 'The Bus' last stop is here in Detroit."
Maybe as far as playing that was the last stop, but that wasn't the last stop for Bettis.
That last stop came in Canton, Ohio, when he was enshrined as a member of the Class of 2015.
Pittsburgh and Steelers Nation turned out in full force on the August evening, when the Hall of Fame saved Bettis' enshrinement for last, building up the excitement to a fever pitch. And it was a fever pitch.
Terrible Towels were everywhere. Renegade played. And as James Harrison watched, he said it seemed like a home game.
"We've got to get one thing understood tonight," said Bettis at the start of his speech. "We're in Canton, Ohio, but this is Steelers Country."
And with that, Bettis twirled a Terrible Towel as the crowd erupted in 'Here we go, Steelers, here we go.'
"Now, I'm at home," said Bettis.
Bettis' speech was a highlight reel of the man he is, first paying tribute to the late Junior Seau, who was also a member of the Class of 2015.
He talked about his family, his wife Trameka, daughter Jada, and son Jerome Jr. He thanked his sister, Kim, and his brother, John, who was his presenter. He spoke glowingly about his mother, Gladys, who never missed one of his games, and paid honor to his late father, Johnnie.
"He taught me how to be a man," said Bettis. "He had two jobs, worked to the bone, never complaining, never asking for a break. All that while supporting three children. He was the strongest man I will ever know, and it's because of him that I am here. When my father sent me off to college, he told me one thing. He said, 'Son, I'm sending you off to school. I don't have much to give you, but I have a good name. So, don't mess it up.' Dad, I hope I made you proud."
He thanked those who brought him to the Steelers in a trade in 1996, the coaches who believed in him, and he shared his love for Steelers President Art Rooney II and Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.
He thanked Steelers Nation, a fanbase that welcomed him with open arms and quickly fell in love with 'The Bus.'
"Thank you for embracing me and my entire family as your own," said Bettis. "But thank you most importantly for your support not only of me but my entire team as we went out and played a game we loved and knew we had the support of the best football fans in the world."
Oh, and those teammates. You know he thanked them. While he couldn't mention them all by name, he highlighted a few that helped him get to where he was that day,
"I've had the best teammates a player could ever ask for," said Bettis. "They gave me everything they had every time we stepped onto the football field. Sometimes it wasn't wins, but we knew that we were a family and that we would get the job done. A special thanks to a couple of my teammates. Alan Faneca. Hines Ward. Troy Polamalu. Joey Porter. And Ben Roethlisberger. Brother, without you saving that tackle … I still might be on the doorstep, brother. I owe you, for life. Hopefully all of you guys will stand next to me in the Hall of Fame."
Before he put a bow on his speech, he offered some advice. And it was mainly aimed at his son, Jerome Jr., but could apply to anyone. It was that same message his dad gave to him.
"I wish to leave one last message to my son," said Bettis. "Son, there's not much that I can give you that's more important than our good name. So, don't screw it up."
Jerome Bettis is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.