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10-01-2006, 05:54 PM

Our 2006 Most Caring Athlete
After 13 years as an NFL running back, with a Super Bowl ring to show for his efforts, Jerome Bettis moves on to become an analyst for NBC's new football lineup. But it's the good work he has done through his youth-at-risk foundation, The Bus Stops Here, that's the real measure of this man.
By Dennis McCafferty
Jerome Bettis came to South Bend, Ind., in 1990, ready to play football and get a good education. Almost immediately, Bettis remembers, he was transformed by Notre Dame in ways that went far beyond the Fighting Irish's storied sporting traditions of "Touchdown Jesus," Knute Rockne and 11 national titles.
Bettis' Career Stats
Years Pro: 13
L.A./St. Louis Rams (3)
Pittsburgh Steelers (10)
Position: Running back
College: Notre Dame
Career Highlights: Rushed for 1,000 yards or more eight seasons

In fact, it was the Catholic university's culture of community service that sparked the young man's passion for helping others. "Notre Dame is about a lot more than football and tradition," says Bettis, taking a break during a photo shoot for this weekend's magazine cover. "You're in the national spotlight all the time, and they stress community and character there. Man, I was never exposed to anything like that. Shortly after I got there, I understood that Notre Dame could be used as a platform to try to influence other young people's lives and hopefully do some good."
So the freshman Bettis returned to his Detroit home on breaks, determined to reach out to other inner-city young people at churches and rec centers about making the right choices in life. Since then, Bettis has continued to take advantage of his place on the public stage when it comes to making a difference. His Detroit- and Pittsburgh-based Jerome Bettis The Bus Stops Here Foundation, among other efforts, has sent more than 5,000 inner-city kids from ages 8 to 18 to the JB Football Camp in Detroit, has awarded no fewer than 30 college scholarships, has built or renovated playgrounds in struggling areas and has attempted to bridge the digital divide by teaching computer literacy to more than 200 children. The latter effort is called the Cyber Bus program, and Bettis is especially gratified when he gets a sense of the impact it makes.
"We not only teach kids how to use a computer," he says, "but we teach them how to tear one down and build it back up. I had one little girl who amazed me, building a computer from its parts and adding stuff like extra memory. I used to get my haircut in Pittsburgh where her mom went, and one day she told me, 'Cyber Bus helped my daughter get to college.' That's something you always remember."
The running back has just finished a future Hall of Fame career as a Pittsburgh Steeler. His punishing profile earned him the nickname "the Bus," thus the name of his charitable foundation. And Bettis' profile has grown in other ways this year, as he joined NBC as a studio analyst for "Football Night in America," part of the network's much-anticipated prime-time Sunday package. Anyone who knows football realizes that Bettis capped off his playing career in storybook fashion, winning the Super Bowl in his last game, in his hometown of Detroit. When it comes to raising foundation support, a good story like that never hurts.
"People always want to come up to you and shake your hand and talk to you and get their picture taken with you," he says. "But even more so after the Super Bowl. They come up to me saying they're so happy I finally got my championship ring. And, sure, that builds up the kind of energy and interest that helps me bring more attention to my foundation."
And these days, there's another change that's increasing his zeal for The Bus Stops Here: his 20-month-old daughter, Jada Bettis, with wife Trameka. Having Jada in his life has added to his perspective when he works on a new foundation project.
"Anytime I see a place that needs a playground now, I think about her," Bettis says. "As a parent, I know how important playgrounds are for children when it comes to developing physically and having a safe outlet for activities. And it helps them work on their social skills, too. So when I see a place without one, it makes me all the more determined to do something about it."
Cover story photographs by Brad Trent for USA WEEKEND
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Bettis Makes A Difference
The Bus Stops Here is a wide-ranging foundation that was established in 1996 with the goal of supporting programs that enhance inner-city kids' self-sufficiency and development. Programs include mentorships, college scholarships, cybertraining and recreation (through football camps and playground-building efforts). For more information about the foundation or to make a donation, go online to www.thebus36.com.
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10-03-2006, 07:02 PM
very cool , roll on bussie!

steelfan 92
10-04-2006, 05:53 PM
a sure hall of famer that will be missed. loved watching him at notre dame.