Former Notre Dame running back and NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis has committed $1.5 million to endow a football grant-in-aid (scholarship) at the University, becoming the latest former Fighting Irish student-athlete to step forward to pay back their scholarship. The gift from Jerome and his wife, Trameka, will establish a fund for a running back scholarship, which will exist in perpetuity to protect and enhance the Notre Dame student-athlete experience for generations to come.
“Trameka and my philanthropic philosophy is to provide back to those who helped us get to where we are,” Bettis said. “The key is to find a way, once you have had success, to pay it forward. You can do this by making sure someone has an opportunity like I did while at Notre Dame.”
The Bettis family’s support comes on the heels of a similar commitment from former All-American and NFL center Jeff Faine and his wife Brittnie. In June, Faine established a $1.5 million endowed scholarship for student-athletes at the center position.
The funds established by Bettis and Faine not only provide a financial foundation for scholarships, they impact the University at large. By offsetting current scholarship commitments, these gifts allow Notre Dame Athletics to strengthen its unique impact on other sports, the academy, and need based financial aid for all students.
“Notre Dame transcends the traditional description of higher education,” Faine stated. “The reason for this is because it is not a decision of where you would like to attend college, but a decision of how you will live the rest of your life and the positive impact you will leave on Earth. It just makes sense to Brittnie and I that if a young person should have a desire and is qualified to attend Notre Dame, monetary requirements should not eliminate Notre Dame from their decision-making process.”
Both Faine and Bettis have been actively engaged with not only the University, but also personal Foundation efforts as well. Bettis founded The Bus Stops Here Foundation in 1997 to provide opportunities for inner-city youth to succeed and become productive individuals. In 2009, Faine launched the The Faine House which provides young adults exiting foster care support and guidance with education, housing, employment, health and personal finance.
While Bettis and Faine stand out for their football careers, student-athletes across the board are having a transformational impact at Notre Dame. In the University’s current Boldly campaign, former student-athletes have collectively contributed over $200 million in support. This includes four endowed coaching positions, seven endowed grant-in-aid gifts of $1 million or more and multiple seven-figure commitments to facilities. Over the past five years, the University has seen a 6.2% increase in giving amongst former student-athletes.
Bettis, one of the most heralded fullbacks in Notre Dame history, played three seasons in an Irish uniform, compiling 2,356 career yards (1,927 rushing, 429 receiving) and 27 TDs during his collegiate career. During the 1991 season, Bettis established program records for most TDs (20) and points (121) in a season.
The Los Angeles Rams selected Bettis as the 10th overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, he ranked second in the league in rushing yards (1,429) and was the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year and United Press International NFL-NFC Rookie of the Year. His rushing total was seventh-best in league history. During his three-year stint with the Rams (1993-95), Bettis led the team in rushing each year and topped 1,000 yards on the ground in each of his first two seasons.
Bettis joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1996 where he rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons and was the franchise’s leading rusher from 1996-2001 and 2003-04 and was a member of the Super Bowl XL championship team. He played in the Pro Bowl on six occasions, was named to three All-Pro teams and named team MVP three other times. Bettis added 1,449 receiving yards and 91 total TDs over his 13-year NFL career that culminated in being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2015.
As a senior in 2002, Faine copped first-team All-America honors from the Sporting News and ESPN.com. Faine also earned the Nick Pietrosante Award, which is given to the Irish player who best exemplifies courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride as voted by his teammates. The Sanford, Florida, native started in all 35 games he played in during his Notre Dame career. He graduated in May of 2003 with a degree in film, television and theatre from the College of Arts and Letters.
The Cleveland Browns selected Faine in the first round (21st overall selection) of the 2003 NFL Draft. Following three seasons in Cleveland, Faine was traded to the New Orleans Saints where he was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2007. He went on to play four seasons (2008-11) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before finishing his career in 2012 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Faine played in 125 NFL games and started all but one of those contests.
To read more on Notre Dame’s Boldly campaign – head over to giving.nd.edu.