‘The Bus’ Starts Memorial Fund For His ‘Bus Driver’

Jerome Bettis and Tim Lester

Doug Pensinger/Staff Jerome Bettis #36 of the Pittsburgh Steelers leaps over teammate Tim Lester #34 during a game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh in 1997.

Last week former Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Tim Lester passed away at the age of 52, reportedly due to complications of COVID-19. In the wake of Lester’s unexpected passing, former Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis posted a heartfelt message to his friend and former blocking back on his jerome36bettis Instagram account.

The Tim Lester Family Memorial Fund

Bettis has since created a verified GoFundMe page to honor Lester’s memory and provide financial support for his family, namely his wife Natalie and their children. Bettis asks for contributions to the Tim Lester Family Memorial Fund in lieu of flowers.

To date, the fund has raised more than $54,000 towards its goal of $65,000. Bettis got things started with a $2,500 donation from the Jerome Bettis Bus Stops Foundation, as well as a personal donation in the amount of $5,000.

Many of Lester’s onetime teammates have also contributed to the fund, including offensive linemen Alan Faneca and Will Wolford, linebackers James Farrior and Joey Porter, and wide receiver Will Blackwell.

Tim Lester’s NFL Career

While Tim Lester is best remembered for the years he spent with the Steelers, his career did not begin in Pittsburgh. In fact, Lester was a 10th-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Rams in 1992. In his second year in Los Angeles, the Rams drafted Jerome Bettis (Notre Dame) with the No. 10 overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft and a playing partnership was born.

Lester moved on to the Steelers in 1995, where as fate would have it, Bettis joined him via trade a year later. The pair occupied Pittsburgh’s backfield for three years before Lester signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent.

All in all, Lester played in 93 NFL games with 53 starts, totaling 33 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 47 receptions for 331 yards and played for the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.

A Member of the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Fame

As successful as he was in the NFL, Tim Lester was even more impactful in college. Playing a combination of tailback and fullback for the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, he rushed for a total of 3,640 yards and scored 37 touchdowns. That was good enough for him to be named All-Ohio Valley Conference from 1988-1991.

More importantly, during his college career the Colonels compiled a 42-8 record and won three Ohio Valley Conference titles. He was inducted into the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, the latter of which also includes former Steelers like center Dermontti Dawson (enshrined in 2003), offensive guard Will Wolford (2004), cornerback Dwayne Woodruff (2005), offensive tackle John Jackson (2009) and cornerback William Gay (2017).

According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, Lester will be buried in his native Miami, but there will be a memorial held in metro Atlanta, where he lived at the time of his death.

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