Updated: Feb 4, 2021
(Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis had a storybook ending to his 13-year Hall of Fame career when he went out a Super Bowl champion in his hometown of Detroit when the Steelers defeated the Seahawks 21-10 at Ford Field in Super Bowl XL.
The year prior, the Steelers finished the regular season 15-1 but lost to the Patriots 41-27 in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field. Bettis thought that was his last game after the loss to New England.
"The end of the season the year prior we were 15-1, we lost in the AFC Championship Game to the Patriots. I came in that Monday after the game, thanked all of you guys, all of my teammates, for being incredible teammates and having given 100 percent. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, obviously. But at that point, I was done," Bettis said on CBS Sports "All Things Covered," which is hosted by former Steelers cornerback and teammate Bryant McFadden. I go into coach's office after the meeting. He says, 'hey, don't make any rash decisions, just kind of think about it.'"
Bettis pondered it for a little, but his mind really didn't change until he got to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and was convinced to come back for one more season by two Steelers linebackers at a luau.
"Back then, the team who lost in the AFC Championship, that coaching staff went. So the Steelers coaching staff was there," Bettis said. "We were 15-1 that year, so we had eight guys that got into the Pro Bowl. They brought different guys, so it was so many players that came out because all of the other players were in the game that the Steelers and Mr. Rooney had a Steelers luau one of the nights there.
"At the Steelers luau, I was getting harassed by Larry Foote and Clark Haggans, and Larry told me, I'll never forget, he said, 'Bussy, man, it's going to be a shame. We're gonna win the Super Bowl in Detroit, our hometown, and you're not gonna be there!'"
That's when it really hit Bettis. The Steelers made it to the AFC Championship Game in two of the past four years and had a young stud quarterback who will be entering his second season with the team. The possibility of finishing his career as a Super Bowl champion in his hometown of Detroit wasn't a far fetched idea.
"And I was just like, whoa, wait a minute. And then Clark was like, 'man, we were 15-1 last year, you know we got a great team, you know we're gonna be right back!'" Bettis said. "And I'm thinking, wow, you're right. Both of you guys are right. So that got me thinking about it, went home talked to my wife, and that's what brought me back for another year, so those guys were instrumental."
Patriots running back Corey Dillion broke his ribs in the Super Bowl, which opened the door for Bettis to go to the Pro Bowl as he was a first alternate that year. It's an incredible story of how everything fell in line when Bettis was thinking about retiring. It seemed like it was just destiny for Bettis to finish his career as a Super Bowl champion in his hometown of Detroit. Foote and Haggans played a huge role in convincing "The Bus" to come back for one more ride.
"Had it not been for those two guys coming out to the Pro Bowl, I would not be a Super Bowl champion."
You can listen to the full interview by McFadden with Bettis on "All Things Covered" in the link below.