Former Rams and Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s luncheon hosted by the Charlotte Touchdown Club at the Westin Hotel.
During his speech, Bettis spoke about growing up in Detroit, his collegiate career at Notre Dame, his NFL career and his upcoming induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 8.
His 13,662 rushing yards rank sixth in NFL history, and his 91 rushing touchdowns tie him with Franco Harris for 10th on the all-time list. Bettis’ 13-year NFL career culminated in a Super Bowl title in 2006 with Pittsburgh.
Bettis currently serves as an NFL analyst for ESPN, and after his speech, he talked with media about the state of the running-back position in the NFL, the Carolina Panthers’ outlook for this season and the Hall of Fame.
Q: Do you buy the idea that running backs are devalued in today’s NFL?
A: The running backs right now are being overshadowed, but I think it’s a process. You’ve got to understand that football is cyclical. The teams that are winning right now, that’s what happens. It’s a situation where the running backs’ time is going to come again. It’s just a matter of the next big running back. If you look at it, championship teams have a good running back.
Q: What have the last couple of months been like leading up to your Hall of Fame induction?
A: It’s been amazing in terms of everything that’s coming on — the well-wishing, everybody being appreciative of everything I’ve done. It’s just been amazing.
Q: How can you imagine that moment possibly stacking up to winning the Super Bowl?
A: We’ll see. You don’t know what to expect. I’ve always watched Super Bowls, but you never know. The Hall of Fame is an incredible honor. I just want to try to hold myself together.
Q: What are your overall thoughts on the Carolina Panthers for this upcoming season?
A: I think they went and got some weapons for Cam Newton. I think that was the one big issue they had. I think they’re going to be formidable this year.
Q: What’s your prediction for the NFC South?
A: It’s up for grabs. I think Tampa Bay is going to be pretty good. That’s a tough one.
Q: What sort of similarities do you see, if any, between yourself and Panthers running back Mike Tolbert?
A: He’s got quick feet. He’s got the ability to make big plays in the running game, and he’s a really good blocker.
Q: What sort of role do you see former Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams having with the Steelers?
A: I think he’s going to be a solid No. 2 running back. I think early on, while Le’Veon Bell (knee rehab) has the missed time, he’s going to be a significant part of the offense.