Some might argue that the worst thing to be (in football) is someone who peaked in college, only to become an NFL dropout—so to speak. Such was the case for Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel. Others might say that losing a career by failing to get your act together is the second-worst thing to losing it through injury. I would argue that a combination of the two is what would ultimately tame Reggie Bush.
One could argue that Bush was one of the greatest tailbacks in college football history. He would peak in 2005 with over 2,200 total yards (1,740 rushing) and 18 touchdowns. He averaged 8.7 yards per carry that season. You’ll see iconic images of him leaping towards the end zone, making circus scores that would have been improbable out of any other tailback.
Ultimately, Bush would take home the Heisman Trophy that season. (He ended up having to relinquish it in 2012 due to a violation of NCAA rules). But before that, Bush went on to be the No. 2 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2006. And then, ever-so-slowly, just went downhill. So, what happened to this projected great?
In 2012, it was determined that Bush would have to give back his Heisman. According to the investigation, he should have been suspended during the 2005 season after breaking NCAA rules by receiving lavish gifts. Gifts, of course, that he may not have received otherwise if he weren’t an athlete. It’s entirely possible this whole ordeal went to his head. Or rather, left him scrambling to prove something to himself and his fans.
Aside from the Heisman ordeal, I can’t say that I’ve heard too much about him since 2013—his second and final 1,000-yard rushing season. One that would also see him record 500 receiving yards. 2013 happened in Detroit. His one prior 1,000-yard clip (2011) would come in Miami. And then, injuries resurfaced. Lack of playing time resurfaced. Bush was no longer the featured back in 2014, finishing with just over 500 yards from scrimmage while playing in only 11 games.
Maybe his injury is what kept Rex Ryan from utilizing him more this past season. Maybe the 31-year-old has already reached the end of the road. For as sporadic as he’s been, and 11-year NFL career is nothing to scoff at.
Whatever the case may be, Reggie Bush now holds a pretty mediocre—nay awful—record. That of being the first non-quarterback to rush for negative total yardage on 10+ carries since 1970. Bush had 12 carries on the season for minus-3 yards. You read that right, MINUS THREE. At the very least, Bush could have had five rushing yards on the season if not for his carry against the Dolphins last week when a reverse resulted in a loss of eight yards. The former record holder? Bears end-fullback John Adams in 1961 who had minus-2 yards on 14 carries.
Whether it’s injuries or distractions, the mighty can fall rather quickly. What it comes down to sometimes is that players peak in college. Sometimes injuries play a major role in these cases. No matter how you look at it, it’s probably not what Bush wants his NFL career to be remembered for. We don’t know what the future holds for this once great back. Perhaps it should transition to standing behind a clipboard.