After a Round Trip and a Final Stop, the Bus Ends Up on Top

Jerome Bettis
"My teammates put me on their back and wouldn't let me down." Jerome Bettis said after the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL. (Brian Bahr - Getty Images)
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 6, 2006

DETROIT, Feb. 5 -- With the Lombardi Trophy in his hands and his spot in the Hall of Fame almost certainly ensured, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis made an announcement that surprised no one at Super Bowl XL on Sunday at Ford Field. Bettis, the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history, closed his playing career in his home town of Detroit and finalized his retirement after a 21-10 victory over Seattle.

Bettis, nicknamed "the Bus," carried 14 times for 43 yards, getting stronger as the game continued -- just as he did throughout his career. This week has been one big celebration for him, with his home town presenting him a key to the city and welcoming him in every way possible, and Steelers fans chanting for him when the game was over.

"I played this game to win a championship," said Bettis, who turns 34 on Feb. 16. "And I'm a champion. I think the Bus's last stop is here in Detroit."

The Steelers wore throwback jerseys from Bettis's days at Notre Dame when they arrived in Detroit on Monday morning, and they wanted to win this game badly for their friend and mentor. When the team took the field for the pregame festivities, Bettis ran out of the tunnel first and turned toward his teammates with arms wide open, then embraced them as they ran toward him.

"My teammates put me on their back and wouldn't let me down," Bettis said.

Last year, when Pittsburgh lost to New England in the AFC championship game, wide receiver Hines Ward and others were emotional, believing that had been Bettis's last game. But he returned for one more season, his 13th, and received the ultimate reward for his efforts.

"He's touched every player in this locker room in some way, somehow," said Ward, who was voted the Super Bowl's most valuable player. "I just didn't want him to go out like that, one game short of the Super Bowl. It's not often you're playing with a Hall of Fame running back, and a Hall of Fame guy, period. I appreciate what he's done for my career, and having him come back and winning a Super Bowl where it all started, I'm glad to help him achieve that."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company