Jerome Bettis is a Hall of Fame running back who spent 13 years in the NFL, 10 of them with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
All the battles that we had being in the same division, we went after each other twice a year, every year for quite a long time. My job was to get the yards, and his job was to stop me. And so we went back and forth. And it was a heck of a challenge every time we played each other because I looked at myself as a true competitor, and I know he was a true competitor.
But I think that's what made us friends -- because of the respect that we had for each other and knowing that we were competitors and both playing at a high level. It was that ultimate respect. So much so that he asked me to come to his bowling tournament in Baltimore. And of course, I got all kind of crazy looks -- everybody trying to figure out why I am there. But they didn't realize that there was so much respect between us that when he asked me, there was no way I was going to say no.
We were enemies because of the teams that we played on, but because we both played at such high levels, it then became an ultimate level of respect. I played against him from his first year on, and I got a chance to see him develop into the player that he ultimately became, a Hall of Famer. And so that level of respect was always there, and I think he looked at me in the same light. That's why we had a true friendship, and it exists to this day.
I knew when we played Baltimore, he was going to have his big pads on and he was going to be ready to play. And he knew when they played the Steelers, you've got to put your big pads on because J.B. is coming. And he knew it.
We had a great relationship. That's the part that not a lot of people would know, that we're really good friends off the field.