Bush spoke at Bodle's memorial service in the school auditorium. Two weeks before Bodle's death, Bush called him from Tallahassee. "I told him he was an inspiration to me," says Bush. "I told him I loved him. Those were the last words I ever spoke to him. I really felt relieved that his suffering was over."
Touched by loss and growing into adulthood, Bush has let himself loosen ever so slightly. Bates, Long and senior offensive tackle Todd Fordham, country boys all, have coerced Bush into taking several fishing trips with them, including one on July 4, when Bush, ever the competitor, stubbornly cast into a small creek near Tallahassee for more than three hours without catching anything. But he laughed about it. His intensity remains in full bloom, but nobody calls him Death Row anymore. "I guess as people have come to know me a little better, the nicknames have gone," he says.
Florida State is playing a new defense this year. Like defenses at many other schools, it is more aggressive, more in need of adjustment on the fly. In part because Bush's audibles have so often been right, Seminoles defensive ends Peter Boulware and Reinard Wilson have been positioned to combine for 35.5 sacks, yet Florida State has also stuffed the run, finding a crucial balance. "Bush knows everything about our defense," says Wilson. "When he tells you where to be, you know it's right."
Wilson, a senior, and Boulware, a fourth-year junior, are Florida State's prime properties on the NFL futures market. Bush is no slouch, either. He runs a 4.65 40, bench-presses 440 pounds and has a 38½-inch vertical leap. His pro prospects are solid, but he plans on playing another season at Florida State. "I'm not even at my peak yet," he says.
If Bush were gone his voice would be missed. On Thanksgiving, two days before the win over Florida, the Seminoles defense gathered in a large huddle at the end of practice, and the coaches asked if the seniors had anything to say. Several stood and spoke. Bush thought about the weight of the game, about the long year preceding it and about how no Florida State team had gone 11-0 in 17 years. He rose to speak to his elders. "I know I'm not a senior," he said, "but...."
Heads popped to attention, motion ceased. A full, hungry silence fell, awaiting inspiration from the poet.