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Bettis will stay busy

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Jerome Bettis shakes hands with 13-year-old Steelers fan Reed Silverman of Toledo at the Toledo Zoo where Bettis was speaking.

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With NFL minicamps taking place the past few weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had to begin the process of moving on from their Super Bowl championship and preparing for the 2006 season.

Jerome Bettis' retirement means he doesn't have to do any such thing. And that is fine with him.

"I'm still on Cloud 9," Bettis said. "Well, maybe Cloud 7. But I'm still up in the clouds."

Bettis was in Toledo yesterday, as the keynote speaker for the Urban All-American Celebration. The event, held at the Toledo Zoo, was sponsored by Central City Ministries of the Diocese of Toledo.

Since winning the Super Bowl with the Steelers in February, Bettis hasn't exactly stepped into a life of leisure.

"It's been crazy, it's been a whirlwind," Bettis said. "It's a great thing. Sometimes they say, be careful what you wish for, but I'm enjoying every second of it."

Fans in Steelers jerseys roamed the zoo hoping for a chance to have a picture taken with Bettis. Kathleen Jenks and Sister Karen Elliott, professors at Mercy College, were the first to pose with the stout running back.

Jenks wore the home Steelers jersey with Bettis' number and Elliott sported a blue Notre Dame sweater. Bettis played for the Fighting Irish in college.

"I played college sports, so I always admire athletes who stay faithful to people who got them where they are," Elliott said. "He has always been faithful to Notre Dame."

Said Jenks, a native of Pittsburgh: "He's our hero. He's the one who took us to the Super Bowl."

Before the event Bettis gave his thoughts on various topics.

On Toledo native Nate Washington, a wide receiver for the Steelers: "He's really athletic, he's got all the ability in the world. I used to tell him all the time, you've got to put a couple pounds on. I think his upside is amazing, I expect him to do some good things."

On his fall job as a Sunday night NFL studio analyst for NBC: "I'll be as critical as I have to be. If someone makes a mistake, I'll comment on it. I'm not going to go out of my way to criticize guys. My job is to call it how I see it."

On choosing a quarterback he played with that had the "it" factor: "Ben Roethlisberger. For him to be as young as he is, and to be able to command a team the way that he has and to make the plays is phenomenal. Every time we walked into the huddle we always knew we had a chance to complete that first down."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.

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