Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis went out on top, retiring after his Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL in his hometown of Detroit on Feb. 5, 2006.
Bettis will share his story with the area's top high school athletes as the featured celebrity guest at the Beacon Journal's inaugural Best of Greater Akron Area Preps awards banquet June 11 at the John S. Knight Center in Akron, sponsored by Akron Children's Hospital and Huntington Bank.
The event will honor the top area athletes in 28 sports from 27 schools in the Greater Akron Area, including Player of the Year announcements in each sport, male and female athletes and coach of the year, along with other prestigious awards.
As part of the event, Bettis will hold a question-and-answer session with the athletes.
The Beacon Journal's finalists in each sport, Summit County (along with Wadsworth and Highland) athletic directors and other award finalists are invited to attend for free. Admission tickets are now available for purchase to family, friends and the general public at ohio.com/preps.
Huntington Bank, which also will sponsor a Courage Award to be announced at the banquet, welcomes the partnership with the Beacon Journal.
“Huntington is proud to partner with the Akron Beacon Journal for the inaugural Best of Greater Akron Preps awards banquet,” said Nick Browning, regional president of Huntington. “We are thrilled to have Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerome ‘The Bus’ Bettis join us as we give our thanks to the thousands of outstanding high school athletes, coaches, and fans.”
Children's Hospital also will sponsor a Character Award to be announced at the banquet.
“We’re excited to honor the Akron area’s most accomplished student athletes at the first Best of Greater Akron Preps event,” said Grace Wakulchik, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital. “With hard work, dedication and support from their families, teachers and coaches, these young men and women have earned these honors.
"The chance to hear from Jerome Bettis, an accomplished pro who has also made a difference in the lives of others, is a fitting way to celebrate how athletes can do great things beyond their playing fields.”
Bettis, known as "The Bus," is seventh on the all-time rushing list with 13,662 yards during a 13-year NFL career.
He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
Bettis played in college at Notre Dame and was a first-round pick (10th overall) by the Los Angeles Rams in 1993. He was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was the only rookie named first-team All Pro after rushing for 1,429 yards and seven touchdowns.
He eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing eight times, with a career-high and league-leading 1,665 with the Steelers in 1997. He played two seasons with the Rams in Los Angeles before the franchise moved to St. Louis. After one season in St. Louis, the Rams traded Bettis to the Steelers on draft day in 1996.
After rushing for just 637 yards in his final season with the Rams, Bettis more than doubled that output, rushing for 1,431 yards in his first year with the Steelers and was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year. He followed that by rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of the next five seasons.
Bettis played 10 seasons with the Steelers and ended his career with 91 rushing touchdowns, retiring after the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in the Super Bowl.
He announced his retirement while the Steelers were celebrating their championship.
"I played this game for a championship," he said. "I'm a champion, and I think The Bus' last stop is here in Detroit."
The Beacon Journal has long recognized high school athletes for excellence in competition, and the Best of Greater Akron Area Preps represents the latest expansion of the outlet’s commitment to prep sports.