x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Missing in action: the real Reggie Bush

With his speed and movement, Bush was supposed to take the NFL by storm four years ago, but it has not panned out that way.

The Super Bowl media was its usual mass of bodies trying to get quotes out of the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints players. When I looked over at the Saints running back Reggie Bush's booth, I noticed that the crowd around him was even bigger than those surrounding established NFL stars such as quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Why is something of a mystery; we are all still waiting for the college version of Reggie Bush to show up.

Four years ago at the University of Southern California (USC), Bush was by far the most exciting player in college football. He was a blur of a running back who dominated almost every game he played in. He put moves on defenders in the open field that left your mouth hanging open on a regular basis. He was so good that the Saints drafted him No 2 overall in the 2006 NFL entry draft. With his speed and movement, Bush was supposed to take the NFL by storm, but it has not panned out that way.

He has never rushed for 1,000 yards in any of his four seasons and even though the Saints do use him a lot as a receiver, his number of catches has dropped each year. Worse yet is that Bush has not been the big play, break-away threat the Saints pay US$30 million (Dh110m) for. Occasionally Bush will revive the jitterbugging style that won him a Heisman Trophy as the most valuable college player, but occasionally is not enough for the money he is paid and the media attention he gets.

What Bush has been best known for is his relationship with Kim Kardashian of "reality" television fame. I seem to see Bush on entertainment shows and in tabloid pages more than I see him in the end zone scoring points for the Saints, and at media day during the pre-Super Bowl hoopla he was asked how he would look at his first four NFL seasons. "I haven't lived up to the expectations that I set for myself," he admitted.

"I expected the Super Bowl every year, the Pro Bowl every year. But I know hard work will pay off and the results will come." Bush's quarterback Brees also had to fend off questions about the less-than-stellar performances of his running back. "The sky's the limit for Reggie Bush," he said. "I think he can continue to get a lot better. He's one of the most talented players in the NFL. "Just seeing that Arizona game [in the Saints' first play-off match when Bush scored two touchdowns], very complete, probably one of the most impressive performances I've seen from him since he's been here.

"I think he wants to continue to build on that." I know it must seem as though I am piling the negatives on Bush for his mediocre career thus far. Bush and Brees might be right in their contention that Bush's best days are ahead of him. But to that I say: how many running backs get better as they get older? Is Bush going to get faster in his late 20s? If so I would like to know what he eats, I could use some of that.

Bush can shut up all his critics this Sunday in the Super Bowl versus the Colts. If he can have a career game on this worldwide stage, the criticism of his first four seasons will be more than tempered. And all the Saints fans who feel they did not get all they expected in Bush, will celebrate him endlessly if he leads New Orleans to their long-awaited first NFL championship. @Email:sports@thenational.ae