Elvin Bethea’s Football Journey from Trenton to Canton

With 16 seasons, 105 unofficial sacks and eight pro bowls, Trenton-born NFL hall of famer, Elvin Bethea broke records for the most career regular season and consecutive regular season games played, but he also had a plan for success after football.

Bethea (now age 74), born in Trenton, NJ on March 1, 1946 to Jesse James Bethea (his father) and Henrietta Carey (his mother), went on to play football and track at Trenton Central High school and set the record for shotput in 1964. After, he continued his education at North Carolina A&T University where he excelled on and off the field.

Originally pursuing a career in physical education, Bethea’s life plans would change in 1968 when he was drafted by the Housten Oilers (now known as the Tennessee Titans). Over the course of the next sixteen seasons, Bethea was selected for the Pro Bowl eight times, never missing a game until he unfortunately broke his arm in 1977 against the Oakland Raiders and led his team in tackles on six separate occasions.

Bethea had a remarkably successful playing career but strategized for success thereafter. He actually started his second career at Anheuser-Busch in 1977, several years before he retired from football, and stayed there 28 years. (www.tennesseetitans.com).

He was the holder of three team records: most seasons played, most career regular season games played (210) and most consecutive regular season games played (135).(ncheritagecalendar.com)

Bethea’s career high came in 1973 with 16 sacks, and still to this day, the record ranks as the best in Oilers/Tennessee Titans History (an accomplishment which is made even more remarkable because of the Oilers’ 1-13 record that season).

In 2003 Bethea was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was officially enshrined during his induction ceremony on August 3rd, 2003. Following his Hall of Fame induction, Bethea wrote a book titled Smash-Mouth: My Football Journey from Trenton to Canton which documents his whole life story up until the moment he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

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