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Hall of Famer Bettis tells of drug-dealing days

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In an interview ahead of his Hall of Fame induction, former NFL running back Jerome Bettis said he sold drugs and shot at competing dealers when he was growing up in inner-city Detroit.

Bettis told talk-show host Graham Bensinger that he and his brother sold crack as a way to make money.

“The mind-set was, ‘We’re in the hood. Mom and Dad are working their butts off. There’s no money around. We need to make some money,” he said. “So we said, ‘You know what? Let’s give it a shot.’ And it was one of those moments that you regret; but, at the moment, that was the only thing that was really available to us.”

Bettis said shooting at rival dealers “was part of growing up in our environment, in our neighborhood. That wasn’t out of the realm of normal.”

“When you go back, it’s nothing that I ever wanted to glorify, because I know in retrospect that it was awful. Here you are in a position to take someone’s life, and that’s never a good thing. … It was the worst thing that I could’ve ever done. It was a bad decision, but it was the decision that I made and that I lived with at that moment.”

Bettis said he and his brother were not very good at it because they were not “mean-spirited” enough. He also realized the mortal danger of that profession when a friend was shot.

He stopped selling drugs after a football coach talked Bettis into playing ball.

“I thought I was pretty good, but I didn’t think I was that good,” Bettis said. “That moment affected my life and helped me and showed me I can be a better person, a different person.”

Bettis went on to star at Notre Dame, become a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams and turn into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ career rushing leader while winning a Super Bowl in his hometown in his final NFL game.

He will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 8, along with late linebacker Junior Seau, guard Will Shields, defensive end Charles Haley, wide receiver Tim Brown, center Mick Tingelhoff and general managers Ron Wolf and Bill Polian.

Bettis provided more insight into his story via Twitter on Friday (edited): “This is a story I have told for years. I included it in my book, and it’s what led me to start The Bus Stops Here Foundation. My foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for troubled and less fortunate youth by offering programs to help them distinguish between healthy and unhealthy life choices. We all make poor decisions at one time or another, but it’s those that learn and grow from them that excel in life. I am proud to share my life experiences. They made me who I am today and allow me to mentor youth that grew up in similar environments.”


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