The saying goes,”The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” It is certainly a truism when you look at Jerome Bettis, and his late father, John.It didn’t seem appropriate to write about the death of John Bettis in some tag paragraph of a blog. So I just wanted to say, again– because you can’t say it enough—our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bettis family. John and Gladys had just been in Pittsburgh in October. Gladys was demonstrating her sweet potato pie and macaroni and cheese at the Convention Center Cooking show. The two were always together, at Jerome’s games, at the multitude of events that honored him, at his debuts. And that is why this has to be enormously hard for Gladys Bettis.

When I saw them at the show, John had talked about the whirlwind the year had been since the Super Bowl. Disney World.The Winter Olympics in Italy. A golf tournament with Tiger Woods. If they tired of the travel, they never showed it. They had become celebrities in their own right, but never lost the common touch, and that wonderful sense of humor that we see in Jerome. And as they were beseiged by people wanting to know them, talk to them, get THEIR autograph, they never showed irritation or impatience. Jerome learned so very well.

Gladys would say, as she did in October, that she was the talker, and John was the quiet one. But when he spoke, it was full of wit and wisdom. He knew so much about football, and was an insightful student of the game. But most importantly, he was a force in keeping his famous son from being eaten alive by what can be an unforgiving business.

Jerome told me in an interview last year that when he finished his rookie season in Los Angeles, with the Rams, his parents told him to come home to Detroit, and live with them. He said he told them,”I am a grown man, I can’t live at home.” But he did what he was told, and John made him take out the garbage, and do chores. Jerome said it was the best thing that could have happened to him..He was a star even then..Rookie of the Year (I think). Jerome said it kept him from succumbing to all that is bad about notoriety in the NFL.

At the Super Bowl, during Media Day, everyone was talking about Jerome being home in Detroit. I asked him if he had had the chance to see his parents and he laughed. He said,”I see them all the time!” and added it was a chance for them to do their own thing that week.

You think now of how hard it will be for him, his mother, and his brother and sister….When someone is such a huge presence, the adjustment to the loss is enormous. John Bettis was so young, only 61..And he was enjoying his new retirement..He had watched this Pitttsburgh Steeler,his son, (and he loved the Steelers) win a Super Bowl, and settle into a new career and life, with a new wife and child.

This last week , John Bettis’s words in Jerome’s new book,”Driving Home,” have been quoted often. But they bear repeating. He said them as Jerome was getting ready to leave for Notre Dame. “I took him aside and told him this: Son, I don’t have
much to give you except a name, but it’s a clean name. It’s never been on a police blotter, and it’s never caused any trouble. See that you take care ot it.”

For the entire Bettis family, our love and sincerest condolences this Holiday Season.

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