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Reggie Bush - "Jesus in Cleats"


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Good article. Hope the kid can handle all this pressure.



Washington Post


Fans Put Faith in a New Saint

"This is my calling, this is why I was put on this earth -- to make a difference in people's lives." Reggie Bush


By Les Carpenter

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, July 2, 2006; E01


NEW ORLEANS Salvation arrived in the rain that night, driving into town past the ghostly husks of abandoned cars, shuttered housing projects and still-darkened office towers. It was exactly eight months to the day that the hurricane roared in from the gulf, and the skies had opened again.


But on this evening, there was rejoicing on the streets of the broken city. Reggie Bush had come to deliver them all.


Of course, he did not know this yet. All he realized as he rode in a limousine through the drizzle was that he had not been the first player taken in that day's NFL draft -- a surprise because he might just be the most exciting player to come out of college football in years. When he wasn't picked first, Bush was left to the New Orleans Saints. And here in a place so religious that in the days after the hurricane a man scaled a church tower and rang the bells manually to let everyone know God was watching, it was as if the miracle had at last arrived.


In LaPlace, Derrius Taylor, who left his house behind in four feet of water, screamed so loud the moment Bush became a Saint that his wife shouted down from upstairs: "Why are you making this noise? It's like you found Jesus!"


Derrius Taylor thought about this.


"We did," he cried. "We just got Jesus in cleats."


They rushed to buy tickets that weekend, even those with ruined houses and lives strewn across the front lawn found $200 to go in with a friend on season seats in the upper deck. Some 15,000 Reggie Bush T-shirts sold out on the day they were printed, and a few weeks later as Mayor C. Ray Nagin, in his inaugural address, began to list the reasons for hope, he gushed, "We have Reggie Bush!" then was drowned in applause.


But none of this was clear to the Redeemer himself until the limousine stopped at Emeril's restaurant that night and the people lined up outside saw the man in the suit and the Saints cap and began to shout. Then, as Reggie Bush walked inside, those who were there recalled, grown men leapt from their tables and women shrieked. The bewildered Bush turned to Saints Coach Sean Payton and mouthed the words, "Did you arrange this?"


Payton shook his head. "We're not that organized here," he said.


Only then did Reggie Bush begin to understand.


"That's crazy, they were calling me their savior," Bush said a few weeks after he had returned to Los Angeles, where he won two national championships and the Heisman Trophy for Southern California. "I don't think I'm their savior. I'm just a middleman. The savior is God for putting me in this position. So for them to call me, like, a savior? That I saved their lives?"


He shook his head. He sat on a chaise lounge outside the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica. Below him was the beach where they first filmed the television show "Baywatch." Beyond that roared the Pacific Ocean. His world is not real here with the hills and the breeze and the football dynasty gone mad. Somewhere in a 34-game winning streak, USC became a red carpet and valet extravaganza with a B-list Hollywood cast ringing the field, Snoop Dogg piling onto touchdown celebrations and the quarterback canoodling on Sunset with Paris Hilton.


Reggie Bush did not watch Katrina. There were more pressing matters in the last semester of his fantasy life than to spend the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, gazing at the destruction of New Orleans. He saw the pictures of the flood, caught some clips on television.


"But when you see it on TV you say, 'Wow that's crazy, that's devastating,' and then you move on," he said.


Everything changed the morning after Emeril's, when the limousine came for Bush again, picking up him and his marketing manager, Mike Ornstein, at the hotel. The Saints had asked the driver, Perry Pittman -- a man who had tried out for the Saints 26 years ago -- to show Bush and Ornstein the damage.


For the next hour, Pittman told Reggie Bush the story of Katrina.


"This is my family's story, basically," Pittman said.


They drove through everything, across the abandoned grid of the Upper Ninth Ward, over the canal to the Lower Ninth where the cars still remain mangled twists of steel, the houses have been wrested from their foundations and the red X's still remain on the fronts, each containing the most vital information: how many dead were found inside.


In the back, Bush and Ornstein said nothing. Pittman kept driving.


There was his uncle's house, smashed by the water from the broken levee just yards behind. There was his aunt's place -- she was swept away, never had a chance. Here was his sister's house: The water had gutted the inside, forced them out on a boat and then a semitrailer and here they are living out front in a white FEMA trailer, photo albums drying in the sun. And yet they say this: The Lord was smiling on them because after all they're still alive.


"It was a sobering ride," Ornstein later said.


Back on the chaise lounge at the Loews Santa Monica, Bush stared out at the ocean. For a moment, he was silent.


"It gave me an opportunity to see what we are playing for," he finally said. "We're not just playing for a championship, we're playing for the city of New Orleans, the fans, the people. The whole city itself is looking at us to lead the city and bring some happiness back."


Suddenly everything made sense -- the faces at Emeril's, the desperation, the people calling him their savior.


Money Changes Everything


There was no way to save Holy Rosary High School. The thought broke Patty Glaser's heart. Just a year ago, she had invented the school from a successful elementary school she ran. It was going to be a place for children who were dyslexic, learning disabled or struggling with language when all other schools didn't work. It had only been open a couple days when Katrina hit.


Somehow she had managed to keep both schools open after the storm. But now the archdiocese was telling her it needed $100,000 to save the high school and she knew then that it was hopeless. No one in post-hurricane New Orleans had $100,000 for anything, let alone a special-needs high school.


She told the parents on a Tuesday in early May that unless the money magically appeared by that Friday, the school was all but finished.


Only a strange thing happened. The parents began writing checks. Someone went outside and made a call on his cellphone, then returned to say his work partners were in, too. Others dug through purses or called friends. By the end of the next day they had close to $50,000.


One of the parents knew Greg Bensel, the Saints' vice president of communications. She made a call. Was there any way the team could help?


Bensel had just met with Ornstein, who was still rattled by Perry Pittman's limousine ride. He and Bush wanted to help, he said. Just let him know what to do. Suddenly here was an opportunity. Bensel called Ornstein. Ornstein called Bush. Within hours, $50,000 -- Bush's Adidas endorsement money -- was on its way to Holy Rosary.


And Holy Rosary would stay open for another year.


"This young man did it for us and he did it with a lot of heart," Glaser said. "I'm sure his mother raised him right. I'm dying to meet his mother."


She held an assembly a few days later and she had Bush walk through the school. As he did, the parents flooded toward him with tears spilling from their eyes. They told him about their children and how those children couldn't function in regular schools and that Holy Rosary was the only place they could thrive. And did he know that he had just saved the school and, coincidentally, their children's lives?


Bush looked befuddled. Then he saw the sign, made by a child that hung on the wall. It read, "Reggie Bush is making a difference."


And right there, Glaser remembered thinking, Bush was going to cry. He almost did. His voice cracked and sputtered but then he went on. She told him about the school's most important program, the one that links all the things the students had learned in the previous days in one class called "connections." She thought the program needed a name. How about the "Reggie Bush Connections Program?"


Then Rev. William Maestri, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, stepped up before the assembly and told everyone about a follower of Saint Dominic in 12th-century France who had lived a life of prayer and generosity and concern for the poor. The man's name was Blessed Reginald of Orleans.


It all seemed so much. And several days after everyone had gone away, Glaser sat in a library on the school's campus wearing fleur-de-lis earrings.


"I really hope he can live up to expectations here," she said. "There is so much riding on him here. He seemed very levelheaded. He is more connected to Holy Rosary than I expected."


She sighed.


"It's so important for people to come and make a difference in New Orleans. We need help. Certainly my school needs help but my city needs help and we need someone with heart and desire to help us."


In Houston, it would have been different. After all, it was the Texans who had that first pick, a choice everyone assumed they would use on Bush until, the night before the draft, they inexplicably announced they were taking a defensive end named Mario Williams. In Houston, Bush would have been another top draft pick, a big deal, but not expected to deliver the franchise to a promised land. Likewise, it wouldn't have been the same around here if Mario Williams was coming to town.


The fact is, the Saints didn't even need a running back. They already had Deuce McAllister. Nor did they need a kick returner. That job belongs to Michael Lewis, a former beer truck driver discovered in a team tryout, and hence is something of a local celebrity.


But New Orleans needed Reggie Bush. He gets that now.


"It's definitely not the same pressure [as Houston] for a guy in my position," he said as the surf churned over the sand. "You know what it is? I was put in this position for a reason."


Which is?


"I just feel like this is what I'm supposed to do," he replied. "This is my calling, this is why I was put on this earth -- to make a difference in people's lives."


Off-the-Field Lessons


Draft week had been a bad week for him. In addition to the Texans' snub, there was the matter of the house outside of his home town of San Diego where his parents had been living for a year, apparently rent-free. Since the house was owned by a prospective marketing representative named Michael Michaels, it could constitute an NCAA violation, could mean Bush would have to return his Heisman and could require USC to forfeit all of its 2005 games.


Once Bush did not sign with the marketing company Michaels was trying to start, Michaels claimed the Bush family owed him $54,000 in back rent. He said he was planning on suing the family for $3.2 million.


The NCAA and Pacific-10 have opened investigations into the matter, as has the FBI. Several reports say the NFL, after looking into it, told teams that Bush might be the victim of an extortion plot. This is the same thing people close to Bush say while insisting that they not be quoted by name because of the pending investigation.


Bush has maintained that neither he nor his family did anything wrong but has not elaborated. "It's taught me to be cognizant of who you allow in your life, who you allow to be close to you," he said. "It's something very important. Especially the more money you get, the bigger target you become. That's true. It's sad but it's true that you have to be aware of every person that comes to you with the next greatest deal.


"You just have to look at every single person with a fine lens. That's the way my life is going to be from here on out."


But who knew such despair would lead to such wonderful opportunity.


From high in the stands at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Ornstein watched his player dressed in a Saints uniform run through a trading-card photo shoot. It's clear Ornstein believes he has a gold mine in Bush. It appears corporate America loves the Saints' new running back. The trading-card shoot is part of the NFL Players Rookie Premiere, an event sponsored by Reebok and EA Sports. But Ornstein has endorsement deals for Bush everywhere from Subway to Hummer to a still-unnamed soft drink company. One company wants to put out a cologne called "619," a reference to the San Diego area code Bush wrote on his eye black in college games.


"We're just killing them," Ornstein shouted. "We've got all this pre-him being on a football field. It has to do with a couple of things. He's got great looks and he's the most exciting player to come out of college in 10 years. When you put all that together, you can see how big it will be."


It was Ornstein, for instance, who orchestrated Bush's recent push to wear his USC No. 5 even though NFL rules prohibit running backs from wearing a jersey number below 20. Ornstein's reasoning: It's a dumb rule.


But mostly what Ornstein wants to talk about is New Orleans. "I'm committed, I'm passionate that I can help make a change through a vehicle that is Reggie Bush," he said.


As a result, every endorsement deal will have a New Orleans twist. Hummer, for instance, is supposed to give trucks to the city's police department, the Adidas money went to Holy Rosary and every subsequent contract will include some kind of contribution to the area.


Of course, such generosity has its rewards, and Ornstein was asked if there isn't a residual benefit to handing over $50,000 of your own money to save a school -- that maybe the $50,000 will bring back millions in return because of the goodwill.


For a split second he looked offended. "Hey, I'm a marketing guy," he finally said. "If I can make Reggie a human being rather than a spoiled $25 million kid then that's a good thing.


"Am I trying to make money off New Orleans? I don't think there's any money in New Orleans to make."


He paused and looked at Bush running down the field in his Saints uniform. "People will get tired of hearing it," he said. "They will ask, 'Is this guy really this freaking good?' Yeah he is. He's really that good a guy."


The First Coming


The pass rose above the fields outside the Saints' headquarters. For a day, the gates were open and the fans could watch the team's practices. Almost 3,000 of them had packed into bleachers along the front fence, watching as the ball glistened in the morning sun, then fell into the hands of Reggie Bush.


And even though this was a minicamp and tackling was prohibited, Bush tucked the ball with two hands, faked left then swooped right in a single fluid motion, almost too fast to see. The crowd gasped.


Then in the front row, Derrius Taylor stood up just as he did in his living room on draft day and shouted, "That's who we drafted, we drafted Jesus!"


The fans around him responded, "Mmmhummm"


"Jesus in cleats!" he shouted.


A few miles away in downtown New Orleans, workers slowly pieced together the great roof of the Superdome. This is where the agony was the worst, where the hungry and hopeless gathered on the concourses and wondered why the world had forgotten them. Some thought the stadium should be destroyed. Instead it will reopen on Sept. 26 with a new roof and luxury suites. A huge banner hangs on the side of the dome announcing the Saints' first game back, the third week of the season.


The Saints have sold more than 55,000 season tickets, the most they ever have. They are almost assured of selling out all their games this year and will probably even fill most of the lucrative new luxury boxes too.


But professional sports was already precarious here even before Katrina. New Orleans is not a corporate mecca and money does not flow smoothly. What happens when the euphoria of this first year back settles down? What if Reggie Bush, who has yet to play a down in the NFL, can't save New Orleans after all?


The irony of the trading-card shoot in Los Angeles, with Bush running around the Coliseum in his Saints uniform, is that it might really be foreshadowing, that in two years the NFL might throw up its hands and say it tried with New Orleans but that the Saints might be the ideal franchise to fill the decade-long void of football in Los Angeles.


That's for another day. For now, New Orleans has its hope, its savior and the dream that a football team can make everything good again.



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Considering the growing sentiment towards Reggie down there, Benson would face some serious wrath if the Saints don't give in to Reggie/his agent's contract demands, whether or not they're asking for too much.

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Considering the growing sentiment towards Reggie down there, Benson would face some serious wrath if the Saints don't give in to Reggie/his agent's contract demands, whether or not they're asking for too much.



A very good point msaint.

No one wants to see Bush holdout, but if he did this would be one of the few occasions where the fans would blame the managment, and not the player.

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Considering the growing sentiment towards Reggie down there, Benson would face some serious wrath if the Saints don't give in to Reggie/his agent's contract demands, whether or not they're asking for too much.


I think Bush's contract will be more than what Cedric Benson got last year. He comes into the NFL at age 22 and is a guy who tore up the college ranks. I think they'll try to get 7+ years and 60+ million in the deal. A rip off but at least a sign that the Saints are trying to win a few.

Edited by broncosn05
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A very good point msaint.

No one wants to see Bush holdout, but if he did this would be one of the few occasions {b]where the fans would blame the managment, and not the player.[/b]



You might be surprised, especially if Reggie takes the position of wanting to be paid as the number 1 pick (at least based upon the various threads on the main Saints message board).


Immediately after the draft, everybody was happy and all the soundbites were positive -- Bush: "Told my agent I want to be in camp on time and do not want a holdout". Benson: "We'll pay him". But since then, alot of posturing from both sides, each backtracked a bit on their initial comments, and some sort of holdout looks inevitable.

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I really don't want to come across as uncareing. It was a very nice article. I'm sure my wife would be in tears by now. 3/4 of my outlaws are in and around that area, as well as Lake Charles.


My point is, this has very little to do with football. And while LA may believe Bush is Hezeus in cleats, I think they know very little about football. He is absolutely a great addition along with Drew, but I am still not convinced when Aaron and Duece couldn't whip a shrimp into a net last year. I hope I'm wrong, but unless they find a line, I really don't care if they even have Christian. We'll see.


P.S. It's only a matter of time before it happens again.


P.S.S. My guess is the east coast barrier islands get hammered this year.


P.S.S.S. As a tax payer, I am getting REALLY tired of paying for STUPID people.


Just me 2 cents.

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A very good point msaint.

No one wants to see Bush holdout, but if he did this would be one of the few occasions where the fans would blame the managment, and not the player.




And that would be sad. Because this time they are trying to protect the organization if he is a Bust or a true 3rd down back.

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