Some call Kendall Bussey the “Mini Bus.”
Others call him “Little Bus.”
But long before he picked up those nicknames, he was just mini.
So small in fact, that his mom feared for his safety when he first began playing football as a kid.
“He was just such a runt and looked so funny in his uniform,” Keon Bussey recalls. “But once he got out there on the field, I could tell he was just a natural. And he was so fast.”
He’s still fast.
But Bussey, a senior at Newman, is no longer skinny.
He is now a chiseled 5-foot-10, 210-pound running back being recruited by colleges all across the country.
A lifesize cardboard cutout of him greets those college coaches and others when they enter the building at the uptown school.
He verbally committed to Nebraska this summer after having originally committed to Tulane. His most recent offer came last week from Notre Dame.
“After I committed to Nebraska, it seems like the recruiting really picked up,” Bussey said. “A lot of bigger programs started coming after me. That surprised me because I thought when I committed that it would shut down.”
He now holds about 21 offers but says the process hasn’t been stressful.
It helps having a dad who has been through it.
Kendall Bussey Sr. was a star running back at Shaw who went on to play at Colorado and then Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) before playing with the Oakland Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings.
“My dad has been a big help,” Bussey said. “I don’t know what I’d do without him honestly. He has been showing me the ins and outs and what to look for.”
He also gives him pointers on football, although the two are entirely different types of backs.
“Actually he is a total different back than I was,” said Kendall Bussey Sr. “We have similar vision, but I was more of a power back, a 230-pound bruiser. Kendall is more of a Marshall Faulk or LaDanianian Tomlinson type.”
Bussey’s speed can be traced back to running track at an early age.
But his first sport was karate, where he earned a black belt.
“He started to lose interest,” said Keon Bussey. “His dad put him in football and the rest is history.”
It didn’t take Newman coach Nelson Stewart long to see Bussey’s talents.
“When he came in seventh grade, we knew he was very special,” Stewart said. “He was explosive. The first thing you noticed about him was his burst. We hadn’t had a kid like that who had that speed who could just go 90 yards like that. The thing this year is now he has the power to match it. He added 15 pounds of muscle, going from 190 to 205 and didn’t lose a step. He is a physical runner, and we really rebuilt our running game around him.”
Bussey has rushed for 347 yards on just 37 carries (averaging 9.4 yards per carry) and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. He also has caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown and scored another touchdown on a kickoff return.
He looks to add to that total on Friday when Newman (3-0), ranked No. 2 in The New Orleans Advocate Small School Super 10, hosts Sophie B. Wright.
“I have had a few good games, but nothing great yet,” he said, despite a five-touchdown performance against Riverdale two weeks ago. “I know I still have a lot to work on. I am just trying to do whatever coach needs.”
Bussey said his main goal is to do something that former Newman standouts like Eli and Peyton Manning and Odell Beckham couldn’t do.
“We just want to win a state championship,” Bussey said. “Newman has never won a state championship, and as seniors we feel like it’s our job to do it. We have the personnel, we have the hunger and we have the mentality.”
Stewart knows if the Greenies are to capture that elusive title, Bussey will play a key part.
“He is just a high character kid,” Stewart said. “He is a quiet leader, but also very personable. He embodies what we think a student-athlete stands for. He does things the right way and is a joy to coach.”
Before Friday’s game, he will sit in the locker like he does every week, listening to the music of Louisiana native Kevin Gates.
After the game, he’ll get dressed.
He’ll put on one of the “gazillion pair of tennis shoes” his mom says he owns.
“Yeah I am a shoe person,” he says with a grin. “That’s just me.”
Stewart often ribs him about that tennis shoe fetish.
“He is real particular when it comes to how he dresses,” Stewart said. “He is real neat for a guy who plays as physical as he is. I always joke with him that he is the prettiest, physical back I know. That’s the unique thing about him. He is always dressed and neat and put together, but he sure doesn’t play that way.”