“Jerome was a linebacker that played running back,” said Porter, talking this week from his home in California. “It’s that simple. Jerome was a physical guy. Most backs went away from traffic, linebackers love traffic. Jerome loved traffic. Running backs get in the hole and dodge guys. He would shake a guy every now and then to make fun of them and show he is big and can shake you.”
Porter remembers the days during training camp at St. Vincent College when he had to try and bring Bettis down. Porter, who has never shied away from talking smack on the field, was often left without anything to say after going against Bettis.
“There were times I went against him in practice and he got the best of me,” said Porter. “I couldn’t say anything. I would just walk back to the huddle. I couldn’t feel my shoulders. But I tried to never let him see that. I would always play the next play so he didn’t know he hurt me. I would not go out of practice. I always forced myself to play one more play to make it look like I went down because of something else, but most of the time it was because I got hit by him and my shoulders were hurting.
“It got worse and worse as his career went on because he got bigger. That was Bus though. He was going to run hard, he was a low to the ground guy. He was going to bring it every single time. He was thick. He wasn’t a running back you wanted to tackle every day.”
It was those days, especially early in Porter’s career that helped mold him into the player he became. He said he learned so much from Bettis and that going against him made him gave him the confidence he needed.
“He groomed me,” said Porter. “When I was on scout team my biggest challenge was going against Jerome in practice and being able to know where he was going, go against him in one-on-ones and attempt to hit him in practice. It helped let me know if I was ready. If I got the respect out of him, then I was all right. He gave me that early in my career. We developed a lifetime relationship and I had to earn that. He gave me all of the confidence I had in practice.
“I was going against a future Hall of Famer and I knew that my rookie year.”
It things go the way Porter sees fit, then Hall of Famer will be a description soon attached to Bettis and by far, the most accurate and deserving one. Bettis is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013, which is set to be announced this Saturday in New Orleans, and Porter is still stunned he hasn’t gotten in the previous two years he was a finalist.
“There are other big running backs that played the game, but not like he did, not with the level of success he had for 13 seasons, being the man for that long at a high level,” said Porter. “He was a power back. A lot of guys claim to be a power back, but he was one. He earned every yard he has. He ran hard. He caught the ball. He scored touchdowns. He won the Super Bowl. He was a first round pick.
“He did all you could do. He should have been in there the first time out.”
Tags: Hall of Fame, Jerome Bettis, Joey Porter
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