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7/18/2006 04:08:00 AM
Bush League 101
Reggie Bush was all ears as he listened to NFL vets teach him the tricks of the trade.
Peter Read Miller/SI
Reggie Bush is soaking it all in. For the first time in a long time, the Heisman Trophy winner is speechless. He's simply listening while Willie McGinest, Rodney Peete, Rod Woodson and Eddie George are schooling the rookie back on the nuances of the NFL.
The quartet of veterans are wearing suits while Bush is wearing a simple sweater-and-slacks combo during the NFL 101/201 seminar at the Grand Ballroom on Hollywood and Highland, organized to give sponsors, suits and anyone willing to fork over a few hundred dollars the honor of learning about the NFL from the pros. It isn’t long, however, before the vets shift their focus from the businessmen and -women in the room, holding their merlots and appetizers, to the wide-eyed Bush.
“It’s so important that you understand protections, because they’re going to try and confuse you that first game. I suggest you take his legs out,” says George to Bush, pointing at McGinest, whose Browns will play Bush’s Saints on opening day. “I’ve played him a few times, and you’re going to see every blitz known to man.... Good luck, young man. I’ll give you a couple of numbers for massage therapists if you need it.”
While George talked about the difficulty of going against McGinest, Mike Pereira, the NFL vice president of officiating, put his arm around Bush and said, “I feel bad that you have to go against Willie that first game. Here’s a free pass. We won’t call you for your first holding.”
McGinest, taking in the whole interaction silently, finally laughs when he hears Pereira. “I think you’ve given that to every offensive player in the league.”
George, however, doesn’t only give Bush on-the-field advice, knowing full well that the off-the-field life of a Heisman Trophy winner changes once he signs his first contract. “You’re going to go from an average-looking guy in college to the sexiest guy on the planet,” he says. “You’re going to have a lot of girls coming after you, new-found cousins you never knew you had. Just remember to keep your circle of friends small and close.”
While Bush nods his head, joking that he should be taking notes, Woodson throws him a curve ball. “You should also sign every autograph,” says Woodson to Bush, who has been known to turn down autograph requests. “Don’t be that guy who doesn’t sign the autograph for the kid or a fan who supports you. Don’t be that guy. Stay humble. I know it's killing your man [Bush’s marketing agent Mike Ornstein], but be humble at all times. I know you might have autograph deals, but don’t be that guy who turns away a kid wanting an autograph because you got some autograph deal.”
Bush, who did sign an exclusive, multiyear autograph-and-memorabilia contract with GT Sports Marketing in February, said he would try but also said that “fans don’t understand that I can’t sign every autograph. There are also guys who come up with a bunch of stuff for me to sign who turn around and sell it online. They also send kids with stuff for me to sign so they can sell it, so it’s a sticky situation.”
Woodson also told Bush to watch out for digital cameras in today’s digital age. “Some people just don’t care,” said Woodson. “The one rule I always had was you couldn’t take a picture of me with a drink in my hand. I didn’t mind taking a picture at a party, but I had to put my drink down.”
NBC’s Andrea Kremer, who was listening to the interaction, mentioned a Hall of Famer who had a similar rule. Well, sort of. “He said he wouldn’t take a picture with a baby,” said Kremer. “If anyone asked him to take a picture with their baby he’d turn them down. He didn’t want anyone to use it as evidence against him.”
At the end of the night, Bush and George were asked if they would give up their Heisman Trophies for a Super Bowl ring. Seeing as George ended his career without a Super Bowl and Bush is beginning his, their answers were slightly different. “No,” said George. “Heismans are forever. A lot of people have Super Bowl rings you’ve never heard of.”
“I want to win a Super Bowl,” said Bush. “I want to win this year. I know it’s a long shot on the Saints, but I’m aiming for the Super Bowl this year.”