Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio as a member of the Class of 2015.
Steelers' offensive line coach Mike Munchak knows what it takes to be a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Munchak, who played guard for the Oilers from 1982-93, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He witnessed what Jerome Bettis could do on the field not just as a player, but also a coach when he was an offensive assistant with the Oilers, then the offensive line coach for the Oilers/Titans and appreciated the player Bettis was.
You never played with Jerome, but is he a guy you would have liked to have blocked for?**
"He would have been a great guy to block for. He reminded me of Earl Campbell, a back that size who can make you look really good. They make an offensive line look better than you are because they run so hard, get the extra yard, and take over a game.
"When he got traded to Pittsburgh I remember the first thing I thought was what a great fit. I remember Pittsburgh when I was growing up being a running team with a dominant back like Franco (Harris) in their glory years in the 1970s. Right away I thought of that when he got traded to Pittsburgh.
"Unfortunately we had to play them quite often being in the same division. I saw him twice a year and saw what he could do. To do it as long as he did for a running back is amazing. When you talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers during that time you thought about him, you thought about 'The Bus.' That was the excitement. He made it special in Pittsburgh again, back to the days when they won four Super Bowls in the 70s and he won one with the Steelers."
Is a running back like him rare?
"They don't come around often and that is why a lot of them end up in Canton. There isn't a hole, and then they create a hole. You think he can't outrun someone and he can. That's what you saw with him. I saw it quite often watching him on tape, television and in person.
"The fact that I got a chance to see him at the end of my career. When you do it for as long as he did, year in and year out, game in and game out. He did it and made a difference for a long time, in different ways sometimes too. I know what a special guy he is and how loved he is in Pittsburgh. He made a big difference for this organization."
What do you remember about your Hall of Fame induction weekend?
"It's dreamlike. You wonder if it was all real. Everything was so good. You meet other Hall of Famers, guys you watched play growing up, and just to meet your class. They get to be like your brothers. There are so many things to remember. The best enjoyment is going back the next year and enjoying it all. It's a great experience. They make it great there."
Photos from the career of former Steelers running back and Hall of Fame finalist Jerome Bettis.
Was there that one moment that really stood out?**
"My class was the last one on the steps for the induction. People were piled all over the place, on the highway, everywhere for the induction. There were seven in our class and I was sixth. They made Lynn Swann go last so the Steelers fans would stay. When you get introduced and you are looking over the crowd, I remember seeing my wife Marci, my two daughters Alex and Julie, my mom and dad, my five sisters. You see your family and how happy they are. It's hard to even get the speech started. Everything else becomes a blur. Everyone was there so excited to be a part of that day. Before I said my first word it was the visual of seeing everything."
What about seeing all of the other Hall of Famers there. What is that like?
"I think for me the first memory was I was a big Packers fan because my dad was and getting on the bus for the first time to go to an event, and I sat down and looked over and was sitting next to Bart Starr. I didn't know what to say. I said, Bart, I am Mike Munchak. He said, hey Mike, I know who you are. It was like, he knew who I was and I was a part of that class."