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December 10, 2005

Reggie runs away with USC's 7th Heisman

I first heard of Reggie Bush in the summer of 2002 when I looked on a track and field website and saw that the San Diego native had run a 10.42 in the 100 meter dash.

Since I was the track and field sports information director, I asked USC sprint coach John Henry Johnson if we had a chance at landing the kid.

"We're definitely on him," said Johnson, the track program's recruiting coordinator. "But he's also a great tailback, so football is after him, too."

After that, I followed his recruiting with interest, especially after seeing his phenomenal highlights on the internet. Of course, he committed along with several other Trojans at the 2003 Army All-American game.

But it is Bush's first fall camp that will always stick out in my mind.

Reggie struggled a little in his first few days of 2003 training camp. The freshman back who stuck out the most in the beginning was actually Chauncey Washington. Then, it was LenDale White making a move. Bush was lagging behind a little and seemed to be somewhat frustrated.

Then, the team's first scrimmage took place. I was overlooking the practice field up on my perch at the top of the USC baseball office, helping with stats for the scrimmage. Pete Carroll was about five feet to my left, taking it all in from up high.

About midway through the scrimmage, Bush caught a pass in the middle of the field, turned on a dime, faked a couple safeties out of their shoes and went about 50 yards for a touchdown.

I looked to my left and saw Coach Carroll with a stunned look on his face.

"What did you think of that?" he asked.

"Pretty amazing," I said.

"He's like another Gale Sayers," said Carroll.

From that point on, Reggie had a great camp. One day towards the end of camp, ESPN writer Bruce Feldman came by to watch practice.

"Wait until you see this guy Bush," I said.

We hung out on the sidelines, engrossed in college football talk. Except Bruce-who had come to do a feature on the Wild Bunch II-kept getting distracted by Bush and his running. At one point, he stopped talking and we both looked over to see Reggie zigging and zagging through Kenechi Udeze, Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson, making them look like idiots. I had been seeing that for several days, but for Bruce, it was pretty shocking to see.

A couple weeks later, Bruce put out his annual Top 100 players in college football and Reggie was No. 100-a pretty amazing ranking considering he hadn't even played a down of college football yet.

Of course, it took a few games for Bush to really shine. About midway through 2003, USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow started moving Bush around in the offense. Besides lining up at tailback, he would show up in the slot, or split wide as a receiver. The result was the blossoming of Bush as a multi-purpose weapon.

By 2004, Bush was the most exciting player in college football and a threat to score anytime and anywhere.

This year was a remarkable one for Bush and we all know of his accomplishments. This season, he finally got a chance to develop as a pure runner. Many had doubted that he was a true tailback, but of course, he came through in a big way, running for the most yards in a season by a Trojan tailback since Marcus Allen in 1981.

Bush also gained the most yards in a season (1,658) in the least amount of carries (187) by any back in the history of college football (with one game remaining). His whopping 8.9 yards per carry is something we probably won't see again in our lifetimes.

What was Bush's biggest importance to USC? Well, without Bush, the Trojans don't go undefeated these last two years. That's pretty important.

Also not to go unnoticed is the fact that he finally brought back for good the USC tailback tradition. A Trojan tailback hadn't earned All-American honors-much less the Heisman-since 1981. Let's face it, the moniker 'Tailback U.' hadn't exactly been earned in the last 20 years until Bush-and his backfield partner LenDale White-came along.

In his own special way, Bush helped the USC tradition come full circle. And with the Heisman Trophy that he won today, he has taken his place among the greats of college football.

What else can you say, except: Hail to the Chief!


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