Bettis makes NFL dream come true

January 06, 1993|By Joseph Tybor | Joseph Tybor,Chicago Tribune

DETROIT -- Jerome Bettis walked through memorie yesterday where his dream of playing in the National Football League began.

The big fullback, wearing his Notre Dame jacket, slogged through the mud of the football field at Henry Ford High School in Detroit, stared at the rickety benches and walked over and touched the peeling paint from the goal posts.

"This is where it all started," said Bettis, who played his freshman year at Ford and then transferred to become a high school All-American at Mackenzie High School. "It's a dream come true. I remember lying on the field, my back on the ground, doing calisthenics, and I would dream. Now, I'm one step away."

Bettis, a 247-pound battering ram, announced yesterday he was forgoing his senior year at Notre Dame to make himself eligible for the NFL draft. He is expected to be a first-round selection.

Nine other collegians declared for the draft yesterday, including Georgia running back Garrison Hearst, who finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting this season.

It was not a happy 56th birthday today for Irish coach Lou Holtz, considering he lost two All-American candidates in Bettis and cornerback Tommy Carter, who announced his intention to enter the draft on Monday.

Both Carter and Bettis said they will continue their studies at Notre Dame in the off-season like former teammate Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, who is registered for another semester.

Bettis, whose father works two jobs, said money wasn't the only consideration in his decision to enter the draft. He suffered a sprained ankle last fall, and although he played through the gimpiness, it made him realize the fragility of a football player's career, particularly one who plays fullback.

A critical factor in Bettis' decision was his performance during the Cotton Bowl game. He rushed for 75 yards, scored three touchdowns and was a blocking factor in sealing off Texas A&M's defensive "Wrecking Crew."

"It told me I am ready to go," he said. "I feel I need to go on to the next level."

Underclassmen in NFL draft

,`Player .. .. .. .. Pos. .. School

Patrick Bates .. ..DB .. .. Texas A&M

Jerome Bettis .. ..RB .. .. Notre Dame

Drew Bledsoe .. .. QB .. .. Washington State

Phillip Bobo .. .. WR .. .. Washington State

Tom Carter .. .. ..SS .. .. Notre Dame

Curtis Conway .. ..WR-KR .. Southern Cal

Sean Dawkins .. .. WR .. .. California

Roger Harper .. .. DB .. .. Ohio State

Garrison Hearst .. RB .. .. Georgia

Othello Henderson ..DB .. .. UCLA

Marvin Jones .. .. LB .. .. Florida State

Natrone Means .. ..RB .. .. North Carolina State

Mike Reid .. .. .. DB .. .. North Carolina State

Leonard Renfro .. DT .. .. Colorado

Robert Smith .. .. RB .. .. Ohio State

Frank Wycheck .. ..TE .. .. Maryland

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