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Jerome Bettis on Football, Bowling and a Healthy Lifestyle


Jerome Bettis did it all during his playing days. “The Bus” was a star at Notre Dame before becoming a six-time Pro Bowl running back and Super Bowl XL champion during a 13-year career with the L.A./St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. Now 45, Bettis has teamed with Stryker Orthopaedics to go on a “Road Trip to a Healthier Lifestyle” with golfer Fred Funk. The duo has a three-part web series promoting staying active, regardless of age. We caught up with the Hall of Fame power back, whose new mission is to help people live a healthier lifestyle.   

What is the Road Trip to a Healthy Lifestyle?

It’s a series about living a healthier lifestyle. Basically, me and Fred Funk — a football player and a golfer — we’re doing everything except golf and football, just to try to show people that there’s things you can do out there that can help you live a healthier lifestyle. And all you have to do is to start thinking out of the box.

What is your personal experience with joint pain and how that has impacted your lifestyle?

After 13 years of playing in the NFL, I got beat up pretty good. I do understand that part of it. I don’t have a replaced knee, but I am on track for that. I was told when I retired that I would need a knee. They wanted to try to push it out as far as I can, but that’s just part of the business. I understand it. Right now, I’m with my doctor, we’re developing a game plan to deal with the pain.

When it becomes a point where now I cannot enjoy daily living, can’t enjoy playing with my family and the kids, that’s when you have to start looking at the next option. I’m here to let people know that you don’t have to live with that pain, that there are options that are available. Once you look at all those options and exhaust all of those options, then there’s one final option available to you.

What are some things that people with joint pain can do to stay active? What are you and Fred Funk doing, for example?

Yeah. We’re doing a lot of things. We had a spin class. We got some yoga in. Now we’ve got a little baseball. And we got some line dancing, which I have no idea of what I’m going to be able to do. I’m nervous there. I’m gonna be a fish out of water, with the line dancing. But I’m gonna give it a go.

You should do, use your bowling steps, use your bowling technique on the line.

Yeah, I’m glad you told me that. I’m taking all advice.

Do your Fred Flinstone move, go twinkle toes on them.

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Exactly. You’re right. I say, “Yabba Dabba Doo!”

Are you still bowling these days?

I do still bowl. Not as much as I would like, but I’ve introduced my kids to bowling, so they enjoy it, so we go out every blue moon.

Do you still have your charity bowling?

I do. I still have it. This year I did not have it because I had back surgery, just had back surgery and now I’m all healed up. But I’ll have it again next year.

What’s your average?

I average about, I’m about 206 to 212, somewhere in that range.

Let’s talk a little football. Big Ben Roethlisberger, how much longer do you expect him to play?

I think he can play two, three more years. No question about it. I mean, I think he can play longer than that, but I think two, three more years, I think that’ll give him what he’s kind of been wanting to do, fulfill himself. Right now was a rough year, and so he reflected back on should he come out for another year or should he retire.

And I think that was a lot of frustration. You lose the AFC championship game, one step away from getting to the Super Bowl, it causes you to think about that, and I did the same exact thing. I said I was ready to retire, I decided to come back for one more year, we won the championship. I think it’s the same kind of idea with him.

How sweet was it for you to go out on top in Super Bowl XL, in your hometown of Detroit?

Yeah, that was a special moment. You can’t write a script that gets better than that. Because that was the goal all along, and then to have the opportunity to come back one last year, and then the Super Bowl was in Detroit, my hometown, where my career started. It started and it ended the same place and that was really fitting for me, as a football player, to play my last game in front of the same people that saw me start my career. I was in awe of that moment. It was special.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, what did Dan Rooney mean to you?

He was special. He was really special. We had a great relationship, and it wasn’t owner-player relationship. It was on the friend relationship. I’ll never forget the year I went into the Hall of Fame, he wasn’t feeling particularly well, but he gave me a call. He gave me a call and told me he wanted to get up to the Hall of Fame, my induction, so that he could be there when I got inducted.

And it just meant the world to me that he was still, when he wasn’t feeling great, wasn’t feeling well, gonna still make the trip just to be sitting there when I gave my speech, and that was an honor. He was just that type of person, where he didn’t have to call me, but he wanted to call me and let me know, “Hey, if I don’t make it, I’m not feeling well, but I’m going to do everything I can to make it.” And he made it.

Your NFL career started in Los Angeles with the L.A. Rams, and you were part of that team that moved from L.A. to St. Louis. What’s your take on Los Angeles having two football teams to support now, and what do you think that process is going to be like?

You know what, the key word in what you said is “process.” It’s a process, you have to understand that. You gotta know that it’s not going to happen overnight. They have to build a new generation of fans. Think about it. The kids that are six, seven, eight, nine, ten, they don’t know the Rams, right? So they’ve gotta build a fan base there, and it takes time. But, it also takes winning, and so they’ve gotta do the winning part now. Because if they can do that now, then they have a better chance of getting that fan to gravitate to them versus the Chargers.

Because you gotta think, both teams are there, and they’re both trying to get the same fans, and that young six-, seven-, eight-year-old, he’s gonna go with the team that’s winning. And that’s the team he’s gonna fall in love with, and that’s the team that he’s gonna follow all the way up into his adulthood. So, they’ve got an opportunity to win some young kids’ hearts, but they’ve gotta win football games immediately because they got another team, the Chargers, in that same area.

You played for some legendary championship-winning coaches. Who was funnier when they got mad, Lou Holtz or Bill Cowher?

Neither guy was funny. But both guys have similarities in that when they both got mad, they were spitters. They get up on you, they’re “Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.” They got the machine gun going from both of them. You didn’t want to be in their dog house.

What advice you would give to the next generation coming up?

What I would tell people is don’t sit on the sidelines of life, be an active participant. I think that’s the most important part. So many times people get scared to take a chance or to live out their dreams or to do something that inspires them. Don’t be a passenger in life’s car, you want to be a driver, get in the driver’s seat. Make your decisions, live with them and learn from them. And you’ll be successful.

And don’t be afraid to line dance!

I’m embracing it! I’m embracing it!