by Lisa Mushett
Last weekend as the Irish finished their walk through at Heinz Field, a speeding silver Mercedes made a hard right into the parking lot where the Notre Dame team buses were parked and slammed on its brakes. The current Irish players, curious as to who was driving this fine automobile, turned its attention to the car as a big, burly figure popped out of the driver’s seat.
It was none other than former Irish football great and current Pittsburgh Steelers star Jerome Bettis who had just finished his workout with the NFL club and sped over to the field so he could visit with head coach Tyrone Willingham and the current Irish roster.
Bettis then asked the players to come to the visitors’ lockerroom at Heinz Field so he could share some thoughts. The former All-American had 66 players and a number of coaches and administrative staff hanging on his every word as he told the team they needed to remember that they were playing for all of the people who had worn the Notre Dame uniform before them.
He concluded the brief encounter by reminding the Irish players that, “wins and losses determine championships, but dedication, determination and drive form champions and everyone in this lockerroom is a champion.”
Bettis then told all of the players, “that I know all of you think you can take me, but you can’t, so don’t even try it.” That drew a huge roar from the Irish lockerroom as senior linebacker Derek Curry then challenged Bettis, but the all-pro did not bite.
“It was really special that he would take time out of him busy schedule to come over and talk to us,” senior cornerback Vontez Duff said.
“He is one of the greatest players in Notre Dame and NFL history and what he said to all of us really hit home. He still believed in us when we were 1-3 and that reminded us that we needed to do the same. A lot of the guys were talking about just how tight it was.”