John Bettis proud of his younger brother


John Bettis III is used to getting phone calls from his younger brother Jerome, but when his phone rang recently, it was one of the best calls he ever received from him. It was Jerome calling to ask him to be his presenter at the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he is inducted as a member of the Class of 2015 on Aug. 8.

"He called and said, 'I want you to bring me out.' It was that simple," said John Bettis. "I was like, okay, you got it man. I hung up the phone and was like, I am bringing him out.

"I called him back and asked what do you need me to do, what do I need to wear? He told me just calm down, you will do fine, the Hall will help you and they have."

When Jerome Bettis retired from the Steelers after Super Bowl XL, like many his dream was to one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But he thought if the day ever came that it would be his father, John Bettis II who would present him. Sadly, his father died in 2006, and Jerome knew there weren't many others he wanted to have replace him for that role.

Bettis narrowed it down to his brother and mother, Gladys Bettis, and the decision came down to big brother.

"It was incredible. I knew I was on the short list," said John Bettis. "I told him I am here for you, I will bring you in with Dad. Me and Dad will be here, but don't feel like you have to pick me. If you want to, I am here for you, whatever you need me to do.

"When he told me I was choked up. It's an incredible honor for a Steelers fan and his brother to do it. Incredible. Just incredible."

For John Bettis, being his brother's presenter can only be one-upped by one thing. Being the presenter for a brother who played for the Steelers.

When Jerome and John were kids, like all brothers they had their rivalries. And football was one of them. Jerome selected the Cowboys to cheer for, John the Steelers.

"It was the dynasty of the 70s. I was a child of the 70s," said John Bettis. "We grew up watching football. We only had three channels and the only games on were the Steelers and the Cowboys. He picked a side and I picked a side. I was John 'Swann' my entire life playing football. He was the huge Tony Dorsett fan. We bet a box of pennies on the games. The rivalry we had between the Steelers and Cowboys. We were close until it was whose team we liked and that was the only time we started fighting."

There wasn't anyone happier on the day that Jerome was traded from the St. Louis Rams to the Steelers than John. While Jerome was down about it, John was ecstatic.

"The story is I got the first call," he shared. "He was down saying he got traded. It was before it was announced. I knew the Steelers just lost the Super Bowl, just lost starting running back, and he was like I got traded to the Steelers. I was like are you joking. I told him you know what that means, you are going to win the Super Bowl."

If you went to a Steelers game when Jerome was playing, you saw the Bettis family. They never missed, home or away. John loved being there to support his younger brother, and even eventually moved to Pittsburgh where he still lives.

"At every game Jerome would look for us regardless of whether we were at the top of the stadium or down low," said John. "And he would find us because we would stand up and scream and yell. He would find us and do his chest bump. That was big. That's how we connected for every game."

While mom Gladys always led the charge, Dad would be in the background, quietly looking on, with a proud smile always on his face. And John knows, that representing the family, representing his dad, is a big role, one that he is proud of.

"Just to know Jerome picked me to represent all of us it's not only flattering, but it's huge for me," he said. "I carry my dad's name. I remember my dad telling Jerome when he was headed off to Notre Dame, 'Jerome, I spent my lifetime keeping this name clean, I gave it to you, keep it clean.' He gave me the same speech when I went off to school.

"Jerome did a great thing with the name. He took it to a level that is incredible. Whenever I mention my name, people ask if I am related to Jerome. I am proud of that. He is a great ambassador for us. I am proud to be called Jerome's brother. You don't even need my name. I am Jerome's brother and I love that. It's just great."

John spent two hours with Hall of Fame staff reliving the memories for his speech, which will be shortened down to about five minutes on Saturday night during the enshrinement ceremony. It was a labor of love, with some laughter and tears mixed in.

"We went through his entire career," said Bettis. "My mom and dad travelled to every game. I went to the majority of the games when I could. Just to take the ride, to go to the Super Bowl, to see all the ups and downs, and be a lifelong Steelers fan, it was the culmination of everything coming together. It was special. I got teary eyed a little bit. It's a tremendous honor.

"I just kept thinking don't mess it up as a taped the speech. John no matter what you do, don't mess it up. I started talking about us as young boys and how we had the rivalry with the Steelers and Cowboys. I talked about my parents. I talked about Jerome playing high school football. Seeing him at Notre Dame and it was incredible. We went through the whole story of his football life.

"I cried, poured it out, and said everything. I am excited to see how they put it together."

Now his challenge will be holding back those tears on stage on Saturday night during the enshrinement ceremony. While his speech is already taped, it will still be an emotional moment, likely for both of them.

"I know I will be fighting back tears," he said. "I will be looking at the crowd. I never stood in front of a crowd of 30,000 people. I will be shy. I will be supporting him. My voice will crack. I will enjoy the moment and keep a mental picture of all of it.

"He is not a crier, I am a crier, but I think he is going to cry. I do think the emotion will get him. He will have his closest friends right in front of him. I think he will pull through, he is a champ, but this is such a huge honor. It's the epitome of being a professional football player. To have the legends on the stage, sitting next to him, you are one of them, he is a legend. I think it will get to him."

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