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September 11, 1992 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-09-11

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Page 20 -The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 11, 1992
,rW. ~7 A

ND's Bettis is a

by Mike Scrudato
Notre Dame Observer

It is hard to imagine Jerome
Bettis being the smallest person on
the football field, but when he was
growing up on Aurora Street on
Detroit's West Side, this was the
"Back home, I was always the lit-
tle guy. My older brother (Johnnie)
never gave me a chance to play," the
Irish fullback explained. "Whenever
I got to play, I'd end up getting
knocked in the head. So I had to
toughen up."
Football was not the only area
where Bettis had to be tough.
"You were bound to know some-
one that was into the drug game, and
you could be easily influenced if you
weren't strong. Fortunately, my par-
ents kept me out of that, and my
brother (who is now working for a
maintenance company) went the
right way. He had a big influence on
me," Bettis commented.

Former Detroit MacKenzie star Jerome Bettis, who spurned Michigan to
attend Notre Dame, is now the feature back of the Irish offense.

'The only problem we
have with Jerome is
that he's always
running uphill because
the field tilts his way.'
- Lou Holtz
Notre Dame coach
This past summer, Bettis returned
the favor to a group of Detroit chil-
dren, spending his four weeks at
home working in a police cadet pro-
gram which helps underprivileged
"I worked with a group of about
20 kids and served as a mentor to
them," Bettis said. "It gives the kids
a chance to get involved in some fun
things and lets them see they can
have a successful future."
Despite his kindness and person-
able disposition off the field, the
toughness which Bettis learned from
his Motor City upbringing is evident
in his running style.
"I feel it's important to inflict
pain. If I don't do that, I don't play
aggressive," said the 247-pound
fullback about his attitude toward
would-be tacklers.
"I need to hit someone to get my
adrenaline going," he added.
"Without that, I'm no longer a
bruising fullback I'm just another
fullback trying to be a tailback."
Though he is not trying to be a
tailback, the Heisman candidate has
seen some time there, teaming with
Dean Lytle, a 221-pound former
linebacker to form one of the largest
backfields in the nation.
"Tailback requires a lot more lat-
eral things, and coach (Lou) Holtz
says that's not my best fortd. I can't
jump from point A to point B
quickly, like (starting Irish tailback)
Reggie (Brooks) can. It takes a little
more for me to get over there,"
Bettis said of his new part-time role.
"But, it's a good feeling. Usually, I
don't run behind anyone."
Holtz, who "didn't expect Jerome
to be a great one," has nothing but
good things to say about the man he
now refers to as "Coach Bettis."

"Jerome is one of the great lead-
ers on this team," the seventh-year
Irish coach said. "It's incredible how
much (he) helps the others. He's
taken Lytle and (Ray) Zellars under
his wing.
"He is an excellent competitor,
and off the field, he is one of the
happiest, most personable guys on
the team.
"The only problem we have with
Jerome is that he's always running
uphill because the field tilts his
way," Holtz joked.
Whether Bettis is at fullback or
tailback, when he takes the field to-
morrow against sixth-ranked Mich-
igan he will be trying to prove some-
thing. Not to the national television
audience, but to his friends dressed
in maize and blue.
"(Michigan flanker) Walter
Smith has given me a lot of prob-
lems," Bettis said. "All year I've had
to hear, 'What happened to that great
"At the end of the year, we came
on, but it was too late."
Smith, a sophomore wideout, and
Bettis were teammates at MacKenzie
High School in Detroit, where they
paired up in the backfield.
"He always had the open field
moves, and I would put my shoulder
down and get in there," Bettis re-
The two friends almost continued
their careers together in Ann Arbor,
as Bettis came "very close" to being
a Wolverine. During his senior year,
Bettis narrowed his choices to Mich-
igan and Notre Dame, but did not
make his final decision until the
morning he announced it.
"Both schools thought I was
coming because I did nothing to dis-
courage either one," he said. "The
night before the press conference,
my dad bought me two hats - a
Notre Dame one and a Michigan
one. I woke up and put the Notre
Dame one on," Bettis said.
And to this day, he still is not
positive why he did so.
"Maybe it was divine interven-
tion," Bettis guessed. "The Lady on
the Dome said it was in my best in-
terests to come here."
Irish fans are certainly glad he

on Holtz,

luck of
the Irish
by Josh Dubow
Daily Football Writer

A 1
v "r


N -0 1

When the Michigan football team
travels to Notre Dame this weekend;
the Wolverines will face two oppo-
nents - the Irish football team and
the Notre Dame mystique. However
the Michigan coaches and players do
not believe in the second opponent.
"Once the game's started, you
block the crowd out," senior tight
end Tony McGee said. "You don't
think about the luck of the Irish. You
just go out and play hard. You throw
all your chips out there and hope td
come out victorious."
While Michigan coach Gary
Moeller does not buy into the mys
tique, he thinks it can enter the play-
ers' minds.
"I don't believe in it," Moeller
said. "I guess everybody thinks
about it, talks about the Golden
Dome and all that. It always crosses
your mind. But you have to go down,
and just play your best. It's funny
how things happen, but I don't
worry about it a lot."
In Moeller's first trip to Notrev
Dame as Michigan's coach, a lot of
funny things did happen. With
Michigan ahead late in the game, the
Irish were faced with a third-and-15
situation from their own 15-yard
line. Rick Mirer fired a bomb down
field to Raghib Ismail. The ball
bounced off his hands, over two
Michigan defenders and into the
waiting hands of freshman wide re-
ceiver Lake Dawson. That catch
sparked Notre Dame's 28-24 win.
"I don't know yet how we won
the game," Notre Dame coach Lou
Holtz said after the contest. "I con-
tribute it to competitiveness, the luck
of the Irish and the Lady on the
Despite the ill fated luck twb
years ago, Moeller and his team arb
enthusiastic about a return trip tb
Notre Dame.
"I think the players are getting
excited about going down there tb
play," Moeller said. "It's just like
how teams get excited about coming
to Ann Arbor. You have 100,000
people in the stands ... That's great
motivation. Our players look at it the
same way."
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