Bet­tis leads NFL Hall of Fame class

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY WILL GRAVES

Pittsburgh Steel­ers run­ning back Jerome Bet­tis head­lined the eight­man class in­ducted into the Na­tional Football League’s Hall of Fame on Satur­day, the sixth-lead­ing rusher in NFL history greeted by thou­sands of roar­ing Steel­ers fans clad in the team’s col­ors of black and gold.

Through 10 sea­sons with the Steel­ers, Bet­tis em­bod­ied the blue-col­lar men­tal­ity of the city of Pittsburgh and the sto­ried team he helped lead to a fifth Su­per Bowl ti­tle in 2006 in his home­town of Detroit. He re­tired im­me­di­ately af­ter the game.

Bet­tis was beloved as much for his quick feet and easy smile as the mas­sive thighs and low­ered shoul­ders that churned out 13,662 yards in his ca­reer.

“I re­ally thought the Bus’ last stop was in Detroit at Su­per Bowl 40,” he said, re­fer­ring to his nick­name dur­ing his play­ing days, “the Bus.” “But now I know the Bus will al­ways and for­ever run in Can­ton, Ohio.”

Other for­mer play­ers join­ing Bet­tis in the Hall of Fame were Vik­ings cen­ter Mick Tin­gel­hoff, Chiefs guard Will Shields, Charg­ers line­backer Ju­nior Seau, Raiders wide re­ceiver Tim Brown, and de­fen­sive end Charles Ha­ley, who won five Su­per Bowl rings with the 49ers and Cowboys — the only player in NFL history to do so.

Ron Wolf, the for­mer Green Bay gen­eral man­ager, and Bill Po­lian, a for­mer GM with Buf­falo, Carolina and In­di­anapo­lis, were also hon­ored.

Only Seau was elected in his first year on the bal­lot. His in­duc­tion, how­ever, proved bit­ter­sweet, com­ing more than three years af­ter he took his own life. His death and the com­plex fall­out from it — Seau’s fam­ily filed a wrong­ful death law­suit against the NFL — set the back­drop for the evening’s most touch­ing mo­ment.

Hall of Fame rules about play­ers awarded posthu­mously pre­vented Seau’s daugh­ter from giv­ing a full speech on her fa­ther’s be­half. In­stead she spoke at length dur­ing an ex­tended video trib­ute, call­ing her dad “a per­fect match for football: both stub­born, both re­lent­less, com­pet­i­tive and hard-hit­ting.”

Those hard hits are at the cen­ter of the fam­ily’s le­gal bat­tle with the league, though Syd­ney Seau used the stage to in­stead pay homage to his spirit.

Ha­ley gave a rous­ing speech that in­cluded good-na­tured jabs at ev­ery­one from for­mer San Fran­cisco owner Ed­die DeBar­tolo Jr. to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. DeBar­tolo called the de­ci­sion to trade Ha­ley to Dal­las in 1992 his big­gest mis­take dur­ing his ten­ure.

Ha­ley, who re­tired af­ter the 1999 sea­son with 100{ sacks, also made a touch­ing trib­ute to Jones, who or­ga­nized a bone mar­row drive when Ha­ley’s daugh­ter was di­ag­nosed with leukemia, and dis­cussed his own bat­tles with de­pres­sion.

“My life spi­raled out of con­trol for years, for years,” Ha­ley said.

Wolf, who hired Mike Holm­gren and traded for Brett Favre shortly af­ter tak­ing over in 1991, praised the core that re­stored the Pack­ers to le­git­i­macy af­ter two decades of medi­ocrity. Green Bay won its first Su­per Bowl in nearly 30 years in 1997 when Favre guided the Pack­ers by New Eng­land.

“There was al­ways a threat to play­ers of other teams that if they didn’t shape up, they would be traded to Green Bay,” Wolf said. “We worked hard that stigma.”

Po­lian praised Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy for help­ing him res­ur­rect the Bills af­ter Po­lian took over as gen­eral man­ager in 1984. The two men put to­gether the foun­da­tion of a team that made four straight Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ances be­hind Jim Kelly, Thur­man Thomas and An­dre Reed, all of whom Po­lian joined in the Hall.

Po­lian fi­nally won a Su­per Bowl with In­di­anapo­lis in 2007.

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AP

For­mer NFL player Jerome Bet­tis waves a Ter­ri­ble Towel at the con­clu­sion of his speech dur­ing in­duc­tions at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Can­ton, Ohio on Satur­day, Aug. 8.

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