CANTON, OH— The Bus pulled into football immortality Saturday night amid a sea of "Terrible Towels" that gave the Pro Football Hall of Fame a decidedly western Pennsylvania feel.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis led the eight-man Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015, the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history receiving an overwhelming ovation while being introduced before the official induction ceremony.
The capacity crowd at Tom Benson Stadium — most of them clad in some version of black and gold — roared as Bettis made his way down the red carpet, his enshrinement serving as the final destination for a player who embodied the blue-collar mentality of the city and the franchise he helped lead to a fifth Super Bowl title in 2006.
"I really thought the Bus' last stop was in Detroit at Super Bowl 40," Bettis said. "But now I know the Bus will always and forever run in Canton, Ohio."
The euphoria surrounding Bettis' induction proved fitting on a night most of the eight-member class saw their lengthy wait to join football's most exclusive club come to an end.
Only linebacker Junior Seau was elected in his first year on the ballot. The 12-time Pro Bowler's induction, however, proved bittersweet, coming more than three years after he took his own life. His death and the complex fallout from it — Seau's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL — set the backdrop for the evening's most touching moment.
Hall of Fame rules about players awarded posthumously prevented Seau's daughter from giving a full speech on her father's behalf. Instead she spoke at length during an extended video tribute, calling her dad "a perfect match for football: both stubborn, both relentless, competitive and hard-hitting."
Charles Haley, the only player in NFL history with five Super Bowl title rings, gave a rousing, freewheeling speech that included good-natured jabs at everyone from former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. DeBartolo called the decision to trade Haley to Dallas in 1992 his biggest error as an owner.
Longtime executive Bill Polian, former Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf, former Minnesota center Mick Tingelhoff, former Kansas City guard Will Shields and former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown also were inducted Saturday as Hall of Famers.