Jerome Bettis will always have a place in the hearts of Notre Dame fans. He’ll be a legend forever in Pittsburgh. And he may never have to buy a drink again in his hometown of Detroit. But for another group entirely, he’s that football player who appeared in the third season of The Office.
It’s almost unthinkable that it’s been 10 years since Bettis made a cameo in the workplace drama. The episode premiered on Sept. 26, 2006. Since then, Bettis became a commentator and got himself inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Stars from The Office like Steve Carell and Ed Helms became bonafide stars in Hollywood. Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) was in that Benghazi movie. Writer Michael Schur (who played Cousin Mose in the show) created Parks and Recreation with Greg Daniels, as well as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place. The Steelers won another Super Bowl in 2009. And you found your way to this website to read about it in the year 2016. Fun times.
But why was Bettis the one picked in the first place?
That’s the magic of television contracts. Bettis retired from football after Super Bowl XL and joined NBC for their Football Night In America show. NBC, of course, was the home of The Office. When the show needed a football player for “The Convention,” they went to NBC, and Bettis got the call.
The premise of the episode was that Michael Scott (Carell) and Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) attended a paper convention, and while there, they ran into Jim (Krasinski), who had recently joined a rival branch of the company. The convention was no different from any other trade show. There were vendors, giveways and freebies, silly contests, and special guest appearances. Bettis was one of the special guests who paper salesmen could chat up, get autographs and take pictures with.
The network got in touch with Bettis thinking maybe he’d be averse doing it, and that he’d have to be coaxed a little bit. That was not the case.
“They asked me if I was interested in doing it,” Bettis told UPROXX while doing some promotion for an Uber + DIRECTV campaign in which he sat in the backseat and ended up watching football with unsuspecting riders in Pittsburgh during the Steelers’ loss to the Dolphins. “And they’re telling me it’ll be a quick shoot and all that. What they didn’t know was I was a huge fan of The Office. I was like, ‘absolutely, I’d love to.’ So we started coming up with what they wanted me to say.”
A startruck Scott invites Bettis to a hotel party (in room 308 – by the elevator, more foot traffic), and Bettis politely says maybe. But Michael keeps pressing, and Bettis flatout tells him no.
“We only did like two takes and it was as hilarious as ever,” Bettis said. “I had to hold myself back from laughing. It was a great moment for me because I was a fan of the show.”
Part of the magic of The Office was two-fold. Carell had a habit of staying in character even while people were laughing around him, which would cause more people to laugh, and the scene to break down entirely. And so much of what he did was improvised. Which was exactly the case with Bettis’ scenes.
The cameras kept rolling, and Michael would ask Bettis a whole bunch of things, to which Jerome’s answer always had to be “no.” Want to go to the pool? No. Meet us at the jacuzzi. No. Some of it made the show, and some of it didn’t, but it as Bettis puts it, it was ad-libbed almost the whole time.
The most memorable line from the episode was uttered by Michael Scott as he’s walking away from his interaction with Bettis.
“Why do they call him “The Bus”? – Dwight
“Because he’s afraid to fly.” – Michael
And even that line was thought of randomly by Carell.
“That was something he said off the cuff,” Bettis said. “That was the genius of him, his ability to play off The Bus nickname. That was pretty cool.”