Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis was in town Monday, working on promotional materials for his corporate partner, Stryker Orthopaedics. The Star-Telegram caught up with the 13-year NFL running back, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1993 NFL Draft and finished his career sixth all-time with 13,662 rushing yards, at Billy Bob’s.
Bettis, six times a Pro Bowler and twice a first-team All-Pro selection, was a member of the Super Bowl XL champion Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in the same 2015 class as Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley, and two classes ahead of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who enters this year.
How are you enjoying Fort Worth?
I am really enjoying Fort Worth. We went to Leddy’s, they took great care of us. I saw the steer go down the street. That was really impressive. Really big horns. I guess that’s why they call them longhorns. I was thoroughly impressed.
With the 2017 NFL Draft held last weekend, can you think back, what was your draft experience like at the 1993 NFL Draft?
My draft day experience was special. I was in New York with my family, and just had a great time. It was my opportunity to live out a dream — play in the NFL. I just remembered when they called my name. It was so much joy and excitement. I was ready to get the next chapter of my life started. It was a special moment.
For me, there was only two running backs that were going to go in the first round: Garrison Hearst [out of Georgia] and myself [out of Notre Dame]. The question was if I was going to be the first running back taken, or the second running back taken? There were two teams that needed running backs. It was the [then Phoenix] Cardinals, and it was the LA Rams. So it wasn’t about when, but where I was going to go: Was I going to go No. 3 to Arizona, or was I going to go No. 10, and I ended up going No. 10 to the LA Rams.
A lot of guys these days in that situation say, ‘I’m going to remember that. I’m going to punish these teams for not taking me.’ Did you have a similar chip on your shoulder?
No, because I knew that the place that I was going was the best place for me. Chuck Knox was the head coach and his nickname was Ground Chuck. So I was going to the best place for me. Had I went somewhere else, I don’t think I would have had the success my rookie year. I ended up being Rookie of the Year. Had I not had that opportunity to go to the Rams, the success wouldn’t have happened early.
Was there a running back or two in the 2017 NFL Draft class that reminded you of yourself?
Those probably come pretty few and far between, don’t they?
They do, but only because these guys these days that you consider battering ram-type backs, they run so well now. They’re so fast. Most of them aren’t quite as big as I was, but you’ve got guys 235, 240 [pounds] that can run 4.5-[second 40-yard dash times]. You look at guys as big as D’Onta Foreman (6-0, 233) out of Texas and Leonard Fournette (6-0, 240) out of LSU, they would have smoked me straight away.
What was your reaction to Jerry Jones being included in the latest Pro Football Hall of Fame class?
You know what, he’s an awesome owner, and he’s done so much for the NFL, it’s hard to really measure. Everyone sees what he’s done for the Dallas Cowboys. They really don’t understand what he’s done to make the NFL the No. 1 professional sports league in the United States. He needs a nod. Everybody needs to appreciate the fact that he’s been great for a long time.
Your partnership with Stryker is all about staying active. How do you stay active these days, outside of all your professional obligations?
I love to golf. That was my introduction to this whole thing. But I golf, I bowl as much as I can. Try to stay active as much as I can.
What’s your handicap?
I bowl about a 214, 215. As far as golf, I just had back surgery, so golf has been on the shelf since December. Hopefully I’ll be back at it. When I was playing, I was about an 8-handicap.
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817