It’s Never Too Late

I’m not a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, nor am I a particular fan of Jerome Bettis. But I am a fan of keeping commitments (especially to oneself) and finishing the job.

In 1992, Jerome Bettis left the University of Notre Dame, following his junior season, to enter the NFL draft. He was selected 10th overall in the first round by the Los Angeles Rams in 1993. In 1996, Jerome was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. While with the Steelers, legendary Pittsburgh radio commentator, Myron Cope, popularized the nickname, The Bus, for Jerome because of his ability to carry multiple defenders on his back while carrying the football.

I can’t evaluate the wisdom of Jerome’s decision to leave college early, but I can celebrate his decision to return to college in 2021 to complete his degree. I don’t imagine getting a college degree is something Jerome needed to do. He had an amazing NFL career. He’s the NFL’s eighth all-time leading rusher, and he has a Super Bowl ring. His post-NFL career includes involvement with trucking, staffing, development, and marketing companies, as well as being a television personality.

In an interview with NBC’s Anne Thompson Bettis said:

I promised my mother that I would get my degree. In my immediate family, I’ll be the first person to graduate from college. But most importantly, I have two children. For them to see dad finish a commitment that he set out some 27 years ago, for me to complete that, I think it says a lot to them.

You Have the Ball

I think it says a lot to everyone who’s paying attention. Sports personalities like Jerome have an unavoidable and huge platform through which they set examples and become de facto role models. Many times, we see celebrities, sports and otherwise, abusing their fame and fortune. It’s refreshing and uplifting when we see a positive example.

It’s also a reminder to all of us who aspire to innovation: Achievement is incremental and iterative. It’s the difference between, “I didn’t succeed,” and “I didn’t succeed yet.” It’s evidence of these facts:

  • Opportunity can always be created.
  • Failure can always be instructive.
  • Commitment and determination can always carry the day (or defenders if you’re toting a football).

Jerome Bettis may find a business degree from Notre Dame useful with his current career, even if it wasn’t especially important for an NFL career back in 1992. But its importance isn’t want matters. It’s the achievement that counts.

What are you determined to achieve?

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