Despite being a six-time NFL Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion, former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis said his proudest sports moment was bowling a perfect 300.
Jerome Bettis confessed this to a crowd of about 4,000 at the Bryce Jordan Center as the fourth speaker in this year's Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS).
In his speech, titled "Championship Choices," Bettis described his past choices and how making the right ones allowed him to become the champion he is today.
"I asked myself, 'What is a champion made of?' " Bettis said. "And the answer is that a champion doesn't look like anything. A champion is built, not born."
Jerome "The Bus" Bettis is the former Pittsburgh Steelers' running back who holds the fifth spot all-time in NFL rushing yards and helped the team win a Super Bowl in 2006.
Bettis outlined four keys to becoming a champion: principal, determination, love, and caring.
"I never would have been a Steeler if I hadn't stood up for what I believe in," said Bettis of his move to hold out with the St. Louis Rams because of underpay.
Bettis said his choices to play football, to go to Notre Dame, to leave the Rams for the Steelers, and to continue playing through the years of losses are what put him in place to become a champion.
Bettis also said the love he has for the game of football allowed him to make the decision to retire at the top of his game, coming off of a Super Bowl win.
After he made the move to Pittsburgh, Bettis said he was again faced with monetary troubles. After a few years with the team and establishing himself as a force on the field, Bettis was asked to take a pay cut.
"I decided that I would take it because I had a job at hand," Bettis said. "I loved the camaraderie with my teammates and Pittsburgh was a city that I had fallen in love with."
Bettis said the choice to take the pay cut galvanized the team.
"It wasn't about money or status, it was about winning," Bettis said.
Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher was able to use him as an example of dedication to the team and winning, Bettis said.
"And the dividends are right here on my hand," Bettis said, gesturing to his shining Super Bowl ring.
After a promising 2005 season was cut short in the playoffs, Bettis said he contemplated retiring, but one man refused to let him.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger promised to get him a Super Bowl the following season.
"I thought maybe being a champion wasn't for me," Bettis said.
But Bettis decided to return for the 2006 season, and Roethlisberger kept his promise.
"For me, it was a lifetime of losing," Bettis said. "Now I am a champion."
He also said his professional mentor is Franco Harris, a man "regal in stature."
"I tried to emulate what he stood for," Bettis said.
Despite all he has learned from Harris and the achievements he has made, The Bus remained true to his roots.
"I still think I could be a professional bowler," Bettis said, smiling.