Reggie Bush Could Follow Path Blazed by Barber, Dunn
By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
Running back prospect Reggie Bush and Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall had dinner last week at a suburban Atlanta steakhouse. The place was called Chops, fitting when considering how much Hall busted Reggie Bush's. But it was all in good fun.
The friends share the same agent and a passion for wanting to be great at what they do.
"I was joking with Reggie, saying, 'Yeah, you stole yourself a Heisman Trophy, because if they'd have had that ceremony a week later after that national championship game against Texas, Vince Young would have won the Heisman,' " Hall says with a laugh.
"Reggie's special. It's like when Michael Vick came out. You really couldn't compare him to anybody else at his position. Same with Reggie Bush."
The 2005 Heisman winner figures to be The Man on April 29 when the Houston Texans submit their card indicating the first overall selection in the NFL Draft. Reggie Bush could be a once-in-a-generation game breaker who is a proven threat to go the distance any time he touches the football. He finished 10th in NCAA Division I-A history with 6,551 all-purpose yards and averaged 7.3 yards with 3,169 career rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. Heck, Reggie Bush had 513 all-purpose yards, second best in NCAA history, in a legendary 50-42 Nov. 19 win against Fresno State .
"He's a Barry Sanders-type running back who makes you go, 'Wow, how does he do that?' " NFL Network analyst and former coach Jim Mora Sr. says. "The one negative on him is his size. But he has that versatility where you can use him a lot of different ways."
There are two real good reasons why the 6-foot, 201-pounder should expect to have a sizable impact in the NFL. Their names are Tiki Barber and Warrick Dunn, two NFC Pro Bowl running backs whose lack of ideal size was an issue coming out of college. Nonetheless, 5-10, 200-pound Barber and 5-9, 180-pound Dunn have had big impacts far beyond the limited third-down roles initially predicted for them.
"Reggie Bush actually has a better situation than we did," Dunn says. "When Tiki and I came out, we were the pioneers for the smaller running back making it big in the NFL. Because of the success and longevity we've had in this league, personnel people are starting to get away from looking past smaller backs.
"But there will always be some people that say, 'Backs like Reggie Bush should only touch the ball this many times. He can only do this.' Ultimately, it comes down to the player proving to them what he is and what he isn't."
But Barber says an additional element behind their success is key to Reggie Bush getting everything from his talent.
"The biggest asset that helped me and Warrick Dunn is understanding the schemes and what your role is going to be," Barber says. "Other than that, it's staying healthy and being reliable, because there will be detractors for Reggie Bush, just like there were for Warrick and I."
Reggie Bush's humble, hands-in-pocket cool belies his edge. We're not talking about those razor-sharp cuts that earned him the nickname "The Cutback King" as a runner who first flashed skills in his San Diego Pop Warner league. Reggie Bush's fierce competitive edge drives him to disprove the doubters who say he can't handle an every-down load.
It's the same fuel that has lifted Barber and Dunn to greater heights than anyone predicted. Reggie Bush spent the last month bulking up, adding 7 pounds of muscle in preparation for the eyeball test at the scouting combine.
"I like to think of myself as an every-down back," Reggie Bush says. "That's something that I feel like I want to emphasize to the teams, whatever team that takes me, that I can be an every-down back. Even though I'm not the biggest guy - I'm not 220 pounds - but I can still carry the load and be in there when the game is on the line. Obviously I'm going to want the ball in my hands. I'm a playmaker."
He wants to be a playmaker the way Faulk was in his prime as a runner and receiver with "The Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams.
"I see a combination of a lot of guys in Reggie: Marshall Faulk and Gale Sayers, even some receivers," San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson says. "Reggie can go deep and run routes like a Steve Smith."
Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage says less can be more with Reggie Bush - inferring that 10-15 carries a game could lead to more explosive plays.
"In my opinion, with Reggie Bush, more may be less and less could be more," Savage says. "At ( Southern California ) they had Reggie and LenDale White. They worked well together, a good complement to each other.
"Whichever team takes Reggie, if they utilize him in the right way, he can still be a Heisman Trophy winner at the pro level, even if he's only touching the ball 10 or 15 times a game. When you get in a situation at his size, 200 pounds, when you're carrying it 20 or 25 times a game for 16 games? That's almost an impossibility for somebody to do that the way the game is played right now."
Most analysts believe the Texans should just write Reggie Bush's name now on their draft card.
"I don't think it's a jump ball between Reggie and Vince Young, I think the obvious choice for Houston is Reggie Bush," NFL Network analyst Mike Maycock says. "Reggie Reggie Bush is the best running back I've seen coming out of college, point blank.
"Reggie's short-area burst is the best I've seen coming out of college. He understands pass protection. He did a better job of sticking his head in a linebacker's chest last season. I do think he's a three-down back. What NFL defenses will do is try to overload blitz to his side to take him out of the game. They'll say, 'Let's overload his side and force him to stay in and block,' which is how teams play against (Tomlinson).
"It forces a defense to commit. But it can open things up for other guys to make plays."
One jaw-dropping play Reggie Bush made against Fresno State said everything about his talent. He appeared cornered against the left sideline by a defender, only to wrap the football around his back from left to right a la Allen Iverson, leaving the defender Reggie Bush-whacked for all eternity on his personal highlight video of a 50-yard touchdown run for the ages.
"He's fun to watch if he's on your team, but he's not fun to watch if you're trying to defend him," Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards says. "He's a very, very talented player. It seems like he has a very good demeanor. He's very mature for his age. He handles his publicity and everything that has been thrust upon this guy very, very well.
"Whoever drafts this guy is going to get a model for the NFL."
Sorry, DeAngelo. Vince Young got the national championship. But Reggie Bush seems likely to have the last laugh at your expense as the first pick come April 29.
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