Jerome Bettis Jr. follows in dad's footsteps, commits to Notre Dame

It has been nearly 32 years since Jerome Bettis played football for Notre Dame, but come 2025, a new Bettis will don the Fighting Irish uniform.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer's son, Jerome Bettis Jr., announced his commitment to Notre Dame on Sunday and will follow in his father's footsteps.

Bettis is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound prospect from Woodward Academy in Georgia, and he chose the Irish over Texas A&M, Duke and Ole Miss. He understands that playing for Notre Dame will naturally bring comparisons to his father, which he embraces, but he said he also wants to forge his own path.

That journey started in youth football as a running back wearing the same No. 36 his father wore. He said he changed positions to wide receiver in seventh grade and switched to No. 4 in eighth grade to make a name for himself on his own merit.

"One of the biggest things was changing my number, and so me really getting my number away from his, that was a big step for me realizing that at the end of the day, I'm my own man," Bettis told ESPN. "I love my dad and I love everything that I guess comes with him being my father, but at the same time, I create my own legacy and my own journey."

Bettis said he still has a lot of respect for what his father accomplished in his NFL career, playing for 12 years with the St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. He said he has taken that knowledge and experience his father brings and used it to his advantage to grow and learn.

During the recruiting process, Bettis said he wanted to make sure coaches understood that they were recruiting a different person and that they weren't just recruiting him because of the last name on his jersey. That was something that immediately drew him to Notre Dame.

"They made sure super early on that it was known they recruited me for me and not my father," Bettis said. "They wanted me to know that they want Jerome Bettis Jr. at Notre Dame because of what he can bring, not just because of what comes along with me and my name. That's something that was really important to me, because I wasn't sure how they viewed me and my dad and the entire situation, so for them to reassure me was great."

Bettis Sr. was involved in the process, but Bettis Jr. said he made his own choice. Bettis Sr. was excited, however, when his son told him that he would continue the family legacy at Notre Dame.

"I viewed the pros and cons and took it to my father and asked him what he thought about it and his thoughts on me making the decision," Bettis said. "First, he wanted to make sure I was completely certain and after that, he was super happy. Just the initial reaction from him and the joy I could see on his face, that was something super special for me to witness."

The comparisons will be there because of the name and the uniform, but Bettis will line up at receiver and will play a completely different role within the Irish offense. He is looking forward to the opportunity to bring his skill set to the Notre Dame offense.

"They're getting a larger target that can make plays down the field," Bettis said. "I can catch any ball that's thrown my way. That, with the new offense we're going to see this year with Coach [Mike] Denbrock, is going to be exciting."