From 2002 to 2008, the USC Trojans had one of the best periods of football in program history.
During that span, the program went 82-9 and won two national championships.
One of the key players on those Trojans teams was running back Reggie Bush, who played from 2003-2005.
Bush was an absolute whirlwind for USC and a threat to score as a runner, receiver, and return specialist.
As a Trojan, Bush was responsible for over 3,100 rushing yards, 1,300 receiving yards, and 42 total touchdowns.
He also won the Heisman Trophy in 2005.
Unfortunately, in 2006, Bush became the subject of an NCAA investigation into receiving improper benefits from a sports agent.
He was found guilty in 2010 and USC was forced to vacate its 2004 national title and Bush returned his Heisman.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 17, 2014
After becoming a first-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Bush had an up-and-down career as a pro.
In 11 seasons with five teams, Bush had only two 1,000-yard seasons.
He also won a Super Bowl with the Saints and was selected as an All-Pro once.
This is the story of Reggie Bush.
Growing up in Southern California
Reginald Alfred Bush Jr. was born on March 2, 1985 in Spring Valley, California.
Bush began his career as a scintillating football player when he started playing the sport as a nine-year-old.
“All I wanted to do was play sports,” he said. “I loved football the most.”
Even then, Bush realized what it took to become great.
“I worked really hard,” he added. “To me, that was the difference maker. I just was willing to go that extra mile and make those sacrifices and do those practices and workouts to be the best on the football field.”
As a nine-year-old, Bush proved to be a natural.
According to his family, during his first two games of Pop Warner football, Bush rushed for over 900 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” said his stepfather, Lamar Griffin.
Hard work and dedication to his craft continued as Bush matriculated to Helix High School in LaMesa, California.
During his time playing for the Scotties, Bush ran circles around defenders as a speedy running back, receiver, and return man on special teams.
All-Time #HSFootball GOATs From Every State 🐐
Southern California: Reggie Bush, RB
High school: Helix High School (La Mesa, California)
Graduation year: 2003
College: USC@HelixFootball https://t.co/FX9z6tF5cy pic.twitter.com/MTq0o3P5UF
— stadiumtalkcom (@stadiumtalkcom) June 14, 2023
He also received the Silver Pigskin Trophy from a local television station.
It wasn’t only Bush that Helix opponents had to account for.
The program also had future NFL quarterback Alex Smith and the duo was part of a talented Scotties squad.
When he wasn’t on the gridiron, Bush could be found starring for the Scotties track team.
In 2002, Bush ran the 100-meter dash in 10.42 seconds, making him the fastest California prep athlete in the event that year.
As Bush was wrapping up his final high school football season in 2002, college recruiters were showing up in droves.
With Bush as their primary back, Helix High had appeared in three sectional championships in four years and won two of the contests.
— IAN ROUNTREE (@RountreeNCAA) June 4, 2021
Bush accounted for no less than 4,995 total yards (including over 2,200 in 2001) and 450 total points in his prep career and averaged 12 yards per carry.
After the 2002 season, he received numerous accolades including All-American status by several media outlets and played in the 2003 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
The number one rated running back in the nation stayed close to home when he accepted a scholarship to play for Coach Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans.
Bush Thrives for the Trojans
Normally, a freshman needs time to acclimate to the rigors of big time college football.
That wasn’t the case with Bush.
“He’s fun to watch,” said former USC teammate Kenechi Udeze. “I remember his first day of practice, he must have run a circle around the whole defense and sprinted for a touchdown. Then to see it happen in the games was really funny.”
As a freshman in 2003, Bush played in all 13 games for the Trojans as the program went 12-1.
Although he was a backup, Bush produced 521 yards and three touchdowns as a runner, 314 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver, and had 492 yards and a score as a kick returner.
— USC Football ✌️ (@uscfb) March 2, 2023
In the 2004 Rose Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines, Bush contributed 83 yards from scrimmage as USC won easily, 28-14.
The victory gave USC a share of the national title with LSU and Bush was named a Freshman All-American.
If his outstanding 2003 totals didn’t impress college football fans, Bush’s 2004 season certainly got their attention.
That year, the Trojans roster was an embarrassment of riches and included Bush, fellow running back LenDale White, quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Matt Cassell, and receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.
Incredibly, Bush only started two games while splitting time with White, but made an impression on every defense he faced.
Averaging over 10 yards each time he was fed the pigskin, Bush responded with 908 rushing yards and six rushing scores, 509 yards and seven touchdowns on 43 receptions, and 913 yards and two scores combined on kick and punt returns.
Name somebody who did it better than Reggie Bush 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/0g48555NR3
— Footballism (@FootbaIIism) June 27, 2023
He also included a 52-yard pass for a touchdown, just for good measure.
Along the way, defensive coordinators had a difficult time in figuring out how to contain Bush.
“If you’ve got a linebacker covering him, you might as well start singing their fight song,” said former Washington State coach Bill Doba.
He also received a consensus All-American nod, Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year, USC’s team MVP award, and was a finalist for the Walter Camp Award and the Heisman Trophy.
Remarkably, Alex Smith, Bush’s former high school teammate, was also a Heisman finalist.
It marked the first time in the award’s history that two former teammates from the same high school were finalists at the same time.
USC went undefeated in 2004 and crushed the University of Miami, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl to win the national championship outright.
During the contest, Bush accounted for 106 all-purpose yards.
USC geared up for another run at a national title in 2005 and Bush was the center of attention.
“The most explosive player in college football is Reggie Bush,” said ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. “The best player in the country wears No. 5 for USC. If you get a chance, check him out. Reggie Bush…He’s the most electrifying player in college football. Every time he touches the ball, he can score.”
Herbstreit’s claim was not hyperbole as Bush did become one of the most electrifying players in the nation.
While the Trojans went through the regular season 12-0, Bush (sporting “619” on his eye black as a declaration of love for the city of San Diego), set numerous program and conference records.
When you get a call from a random number with a 619 area code and your first thought is Reggie Bush because of his eyeblack… pic.twitter.com/34h0bSX9OV
— Prinstant Replays (@PrinstantReplay) July 21, 2017
During an October 15 contest against Notre Dame, Bush played lights out for USC and was involved in a controversial play at the end of the game.
At one point, Coach Carroll signaled to Leinart to spike the ball to stop the clock.
However, the call was a trick and Leinart was actually supposed to run in for the game winning touchdown.
NEVER FORGET THE BUSH PUSH
USC @ Notre Dame always causes chaos 😳pic.twitter.com/EYgnNNWrY4
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 21, 2021
After the snap, the Irish defense stonewalled Leinart before Bush arrived and pushed his quarterback into the end zone for the winning points.
The “Bush Push” was later declared illegal by the NCAA, but the Trojans kept the win.
Then, on November 19 against Fresno State, Bush was responsible for 513 total yards in a 50-42 win.
Never forget Reggie Bush's performance vs. Fresno State in 2005 🔥
-294 rushing yards
-68 receiving yards
-161 return yards
-513 all-purpose yards (PAC-12 record)pic.twitter.com/0IMibKRQpy
— 247Sports (@247Sports) May 18, 2023
That set a new all-purpose, single-game record for the Pac-10.
Bush’s junior season included 1,740 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, 478 receiving yards and two touchdowns, 672 combined return yards and one return score.
“Bush is Shakespeare,” said ESPN.com’s Ted Miller. “He’s gifted with speedy brilliance and flourish. Bush is 200 pounds of sound and fury signifying touchdown. He doth rise from the ground like feathered Mercury striding the heavens…He resembles the elusive Gale Sayers or the versatile Marshall Faulk.”
In the 2006 Rose Bowl, Bush and top-ranked USC played second ranked University of Texas and quarterback Vince Young.
One of the most thrilling bowl games in college football history saw the Longhorns outlast the Trojans, 41-38.
Bush did everything in his power to help ‘SC and ended the day with 177 all-purpose yards and one touchdown.
Despite missing out on a third straight title, the NCAA awards season was a bounty for Bush.
He was named the Heisman Trophy winner over Young and teammate Leinart (who had won the year before) and received the Doak Walker and Walter Camp Awards.
Best Heisman Season Round of 32
1. Reggie Bush (2005, USC) v. 8. Sam Bradford (2008, Oklahoma)
Bush: 1740 rush yds, 16 rush TDs, 37 recs, 478 rec yds, 2 rec TDs, 672 ret yds, 1 ret TD
Bradford: 67.9% comp, 4720 pass yds, 50 pass TDs, 180.8 pass rtg, 5 rush TDs
Poll below⬇️ pic.twitter.com/jaErkVe0ua
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) June 25, 2023
Additionally, Bush was a consensus All-American and Pac-10 Offensive Player of the year for the second straight season and also received The Sporting News’ Player of the Year and Associated Press College Football Player of the Year.
Because Bush played on such a talent rich team, he started just 14 times as a Trojan.
He still ended his college career with 3,169 rushing yards, 25 rushing touchdowns, 95 receptions, 1,301 receiving yards, 13 receiving touchdowns, 1,522 kick return yards and a score, and 559 punt return yards and three more scores.
His 6,541 career all-purpose yards placed Bush in the NCAA’s Division I top ten of all-time.
Bush could have added to his impressive totals, but he decided to skip his senior year and declared for the 2006 NFL Draft.
“Improper Benefits” Lead to Sanctions for Bush and USC
In 2006, Bush went to the NFL while the NCAA and USC learned that Bush and his family received improper benefits while he played for the Trojans.
The alleged benefits were not permitted by the governing body and an investigation was started.
During the investigation, Bush and his parents asserted their innocence.
Meanwhile, in 2007, a sports agent named Lloyd Lake claimed that Bush and his family owed him nearly $300,000.
Lake testified that he provided the Bush family with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts with the understanding that Bush would sign with Lake when he turned pro.
When Bush didn’t sign with him, Lake sued the family.
The agent cooperated with the NCAA investigation, and in 2010, the results were devastating.
Bush was found guilty of receiving gifts and money while he was playing college ball.
Furthermore, the NCAA committee declared that USC should have been more vigilant regarding potential violations since Bush was a high profile athlete.
Their investigation led the NCAA to hammer USC with several penalties.
They included: vacating the last two victories of the Trojans 2004 season, including USC’s victory in the Orange Bowl and national title that season, all wins in 2005, and the loss of 30 scholarships over a three-year period.
Bush was ordered to give back his Heisman and USC had to remove any items with Bush’s name on it from the campus.
🗣 GIVE REGGIE BUSH BACK HIS HEISMAN
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 1, 2021
The NCAA also ordered USC to disassociate itself with Bush for a period of 10 years.
“One of the worst feelings in the world…felt like I died when I had to hear that there weren’t gonna be scholarships for kids because of me or because of something connected to me…I’m still not over that,” said Bush in 2020. “It’s just something you learn to live with.”
NIL Ruling doesn’t help Bush’s Case
In 2021, the NCAA allowed college athletes to profit from Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) opportunities.
Bush immediately contacted the NCAA about getting his Heisman returned since the new NIL law would have meant no sanctions for Bush or USC during his playing career.
“It is my strong belief that I won the Heisman Trophy ‘solely’ due to my hard work and dedication on the football field and it is also my firm belief that my records should be reinstated,” he said at the time.
However, the NCAA ruled that Bush would not get his award back due to policy wording in the NIL deal.
“Previous penalties, including those that are several years old, will not be re-evaluated or reconsidered based on the recent changes to NIL rules,” read the NCAA’s statement.
In June of 2020, USC contacted Bush with the news that the NCAA’s 10 year ban was over and he was now permitted back on campus.
“I’ve dreamed of this day for 10-plus years,” Bush said, “and I’m excited to come home.”
Life Goes On
Months before the NCAA’s investigation began, Bush was one of the hottest prospects of the 2006 NFL Draft.
During USC’s pro day, the running back wowed scouts when he blazed through a 4.33 second 40-yard dash time.
Bush’s draft stock continued to skyrocket and several analysts believed he would be the first overall pick of the Houston Texans.
Instead, Houston surprised the pundits when the team signed North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams the day before the draft.
The Texans’ decision meant the New Orleans Saints were on the clock and the franchise made Bush their pick with the second overall selection of the draft.
— 49ers Report (@49ers_fanly) February 27, 2015
Saints fans were ecstatic over Bush coming to the Big Easy.
In the offseason, the organization had hired a new coach, Sean Payton, and signed former San Diego Chargers quarterback Drew Brees.
Bush’s addition was icing on the cake for the fans and the city welcomed him with open arms.
Bush and Company Get the Party Started
As the new crop of Saints reported for duty, the greater New Orleans area couldn’t help but feel giddy for what might happen in 2006.
The residents needed a jolt of positivity after Hurricane Katrina had torn through the area in August of 2005.
While work on repairing the Superdome (home of the Saints) was nearing completion, the team played the first two weeks of the ‘06 season on the road.
They won those two games then returned to New Orleans on September 25 to face the undefeated Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football.
Celebrities, including music groups Green Day and U2, were on hand and former President George H. Bush did the ceremonial coin toss.
Then, in a script straight from Hollywood, the Falcons got set to punt after their first offensive series of the game.
When the ball was snapped, Saints special teams ace Steve Gleason roared in and blocked the punt.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) October 16, 2015
Teammate Curtis Deloatch scooped up the loose ball and ran for a touchdown.
Just like that, the Superdome was in full roar as the Saints went 3-0 after defeating the Falcons, 23-3.
For the remainder of the season, Bush started eight games while sharing the backfield with Deuce McAllister.
As New Orleans ended the regular season 10-6, and advanced to the NFC Championship game before losing to Chicago, Bush mesmerized opponents.
He had totals of 565 rushing yards and six touchdowns, a career-high 88 receptions for two touchdowns, and 216 punt return yards and another score.
— SaintsNOW (@SaintsNOW) December 19, 2017
Bush was also the only NFL player in 2006 to score touchdowns as a receiver, runner, and returner.
The Pro Football Writers of America selected Bush as a member of its All-Rookie Team.
Bush Shows Flashes of Brilliance
During the next few years, Bush didn’t exactly dominate the running back position for New Orleans.
He did, however, show flashes of what made him great in college.
Still one of my favorite Reggie Bush moments in a saints uniform.
Happy bday legend @ReggieBush
— Boot Krewe Media (@BootKreweMedia) March 2, 2023
While compiling 998 total scrimmage yards and six total touchdowns in 2007, Bush also led the NFL in receptions out of the backfield in 2006 and 2007 combined with 171.
In 2008, he had an NFL best three punt returns for touchdowns including two in a contest against the Minnesota Vikings.
That tied an NFL record for punt return touchdowns in a single game.
In Week 6 against the Raiders, Bush tied an NFL record for fastest time to reach 200 receptions (34 games).
Just as he was getting warmed up, Bush was limited to nine starts in 2008 due to a knee injury.
Despite his truncated season, Bush received his first and only All-Pro designation.
The Saints go Marching in 2009
In 2009, Bush experienced depressing lows while also reveling in a few incredible highs.
The low points in his season were the result of more missed time to knee injury and rehabbing from surgery.
New Orleans also added backfield pieces in Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell to deal with Bush’s absences and the additions cut into his playing time.
Bush had nine starts totaling 725 combined yards and eight touchdowns.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) December 27, 2021
His touchdown total was third best on the Saints that season.
Bush’s highs in 2009 included being part of an organization that was headed to its first Super Bowl.
Brees and company ended the regular season with a franchise best 13-3 record and beat Arizona and Minnesota in the playoffs (Bush had three total scores against the Cardinals and Vikings).
New Orleans then met Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
Indy was a five point favorite before the contest and looked the part as the Colts took a 10-6 lead into halftime.
The Saints came out in the second half and played up to expectations, outscoring Indy 25-7 for a resounding 31-17 win.
Bush was responsible for 63 total yards during the game.
2010 and a Trade to Miami
Hoping to get back on track after an injury-filled 2009, Bush was laid low by a broken bone in his leg in 2010.
He was also besieged by the media as word of the NCAA’s decision regarding its investigation into his improper benefits at USC was announced.
In his fifth NFL season, Bush started six games and had 358 total yards and one touchdown.
As expected, Saints fans and media talking heads began questioning whether Bush was yet another Heisman bust in the NFL.
That notion was dismissed by Brees and his Saints teammates.
“I don’t think there’s a player in the history of the N.F.L. that came in with the expectations that Reggie Bush did,” said Brees. “There was so much hype surrounding him.”
Bush also doubled down on his own expectations as an NFL player.
“I want to be known as one of the greatest players to ever play this game,” Bush said. “I want to be better than Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.”
New Orleans decided to give Bush his shot at glory, just not with them.
In late July of 2011, the organization traded him to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for mid round draft picks.
Dolphins standout RB Reggie Bush (11-12).Heisman winner had two highly productive seasons with 2,072 rush yards, 4.7 ypc & 15 TD. pic.twitter.com/va8BaYwD09
— Dolphins History (@DolphinsHistory) May 6, 2017
Bush left the Big Easy after five years, 4,982 combined yards, and 33 touchdowns.
While in New Orleans, Bush was a valued member of the community and he was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2019.
1,000 Yards at Last
When the announcement was made that he had become a Dolphin, Bush let the Miami faithful know he was ready to work.
“Change is never easy but I look forward to building something special in Miami and can’t wait to embark on this new journey!” Bush said.
He began the season as the starting tailback and began piling up 100-yard rushing days.
By the end of Miami’s 6-10 season, Bush had 1,086 yards, six rushing touchdowns, 296 receiving yards and another score.
“Random Dolphin Of The Day‼️”
— James Capellupo lll (@BostonDolphins) August 21, 2021
His rushing total marked Bush’s first 1,000-yard season as a pro.
One year later, Bush continued putting the “bust” label to bed when he crept closer to his second straight 1,000-yard season, exciting the Miami offensive linemen.
“It means a lot to us — we’ll get presents,” center Mike Pouncey said with a laugh. “Reggie had a lot of doubters when he came to Miami. But he’s everything for this team.”
Even opposing coaches noticed a change in Bush.
“He has certainly shown over the last couple years that he can be an every-down back,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He can carry the ball or catch it as much as you want to give it to him. Inside, outside, short passes, long passes, blitz pickup — whatever you want, he can do it all. He’s a tough guy to match up against.”
Unfortunately, Bush came up just short of his goal and finished 2012 with 986 yards and six touchdowns.
Bush becomes a Lion
In late December 2012, Bush expressed a strong desire to return to the Dolphins for 2013 and beyond.
“I want to be able to bring back the passion about Miami football in the city and build a winning franchise here,” he said.
Miami, on the other hand, decided to cut ties with him and released Bush.
He then signed with the Detroit Lions in March of 2013 and inked a four-year deal for $16 million.
Y'all remember when Reggie Bush played for the Lions? pic.twitter.com/DdiOMmgTIa
— Calvin Johnson's Burner (@CookedByCalvin) December 22, 2022
When the local press asked Bush about his pro career to that point, the running back was candid.
“I haven’t accomplished I think half of what I set out to,” Bush said. “I thought that I’d be winning Super Bowls every year. NFL MVP, maybe. Going to Pro Bowls every year. And it hasn’t been that way. It’s been a very humbling experience for me. … I feel like I have so much more to give this game before I hang it up.”
Bush made good on his wish during Week 1 of the 2013 season.
That day against Minnesota, Bush recognized the benefits of playing alongside quarterback Matt Stafford and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.
“I was lining up and seeing six-man boxes and even a few five-man boxes. That’s a dream for a running back,” Bush said after his Detroit debut Sunday. “I was seeing eight- and nine-man boxes in Miami, so this was a lot more fun. That’s what Calvin does. He’s so good that teams are doubling him and rolling coverage toward him, and those are guys I’m not worried about.”
Bush had 191 combined yards against the Vikings and then continued racking up yardage throughout the year.
By the end of 2013, Bush had reached his second 1,000-yard rushing season.
His stats included 1,006 rushing yards and four touchdowns and 54 receptions for 506 yards and three more scores.
When asked how he finally reached his pre-draft expectations in his eighth season, Bush explained that his field vision as a running back had matured.
“When I look back, I’m so much more advanced in just my vision, my understanding of schemes, linebackers, where they have to play their gaps and just all the different things that come along with being a running back,” Bush said. “So it’s taken a while. It didn’t happen overnight. It took me a while, took a couple years.”
The End comes Quickly
Hoping to capitalize on his 2013 numbers, Bush’s carries decreased significantly in 2014 as the Lions coaching staff started Joique Bell.
Bush still had nine starts, but he received only 76 carries for 297 yards and two scores while adding 253 more yards in receptions.
Detroit reached the playoffs for the second time since the 1990s and lost to Dallas in the Wild Card round, 24-20.
Bush scored in the first quarter of the game on an 18-yard run.
After the season, the Lions cut Bush and he was signed by the San Francisco 49ers.
— #Random49ers (@Random49ers) March 2, 2021
The Niners started him for one game before Bush tore ligaments in his knee when he slipped on concrete that surrounded the field at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
He missed the rest of the year and totaled 47 scrimmage yards.
Bush sued the Rams, and three years later, a judge ruled in his favor.
San Francisco released Bush after 2015 and he signed with the Buffalo Bills for 2016.
After seeing little playing time in 13 games resulting in 87 scrimmage yards and a touchdown, Bush retired.
In his career, Bush had 5,490 rushing yards, 36 rushing touchdowns, 477 receptions, 3,598 receiving yards, 18 receiving scores, 794 punt return yards and four return scores, and 135 kick return yards.
He was an All-Pro once and won Super Bowl XLIV with New Orleans.
Life Since Retiring
Bush has lived quite a life since leaving college.
While playing in the NFL, he dated a number of high-profile celebrities including country singer Jessie James and reality television star Kim Kardashian.
He married Lilit Avagyan in 2011 and the couple have three children.
Bush also appeared in television shows and commercials and raised money for educational opportunities in South Africa and Botswana.
In 2019, Bush was hired as a college football analyst with Fox Sports.
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) June 9, 2023
Fox has recently hinted that Bush may be replaced with former Saints running back Mark Ingram II.