METAIRIE - When Reggie Bush was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the second pick in the 2006 draft, a tent full of delirious fans celebrated a hundred yards from the team’s training facility by chanting “Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie!” and holding up signs proclaiming him Saint Reggie.
The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner was headed to New Orleans and visions of college football’s most exciting player toying with defenders as he raced up and down the Superdome turf was easy for those giddy fans to imagine.
By comparison, his departure on Thursday to the Miami Dolphins in a trade that was worked out late Wednesday and in the wee hours of the morning was simple and quiet - much like Bush’s approval of a new two-year contract that was required for the deal to go through.
In five seasons, Bush never quite lived up to the expectations that day of those raucous Saints fans or football fans anywhere else in the country, for that matter, after a stellar collegiate career at USC.
Even though he had moments when he showed his speed and explosiveness and leaping ability, they weren’t flashed enough and on a consistent enough basis to make Bush the featured back everyone thought he would be.
“To this day, I’m not sure if there’s a guy who’s come into this league with more hype and expectations than Reggie Bush,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said Thursday. “That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young kid who came in at 20 years old.
“He was extremely athletic, but there’s a huge adjustment going from college to this level.”
“It was going to be very difficult for him ever to maybe live up to some people’s expectations,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of Bush, the first draft pick of the then-rookie coach. “I do know this: in and around the league, he’s a player that’s dangerous and feared and well respected.”
Unfortunately, Bush’s best season with the Saints came as a rookie in 2006.
Forming a 1-2 punch with veteran Deuce McAllister, the youngster looked up to and learned from the team’s all-time leading rusher in what should have been his senior season in college.
From that point on, the great expectations and several leg injuries did him in and combined to bring about his departure from the Saints. His $11.8 million base salary and $16 million salary cap number this season was too much for the Saints, who had to restructure the deal or release him.
On Thursday, Payton remembered how Bush was one of the players he referred to as “momentum pieces,” like Brees and Scott Fujita. They helped turn a three-win team in 2005 into Super Bowl champions in four years.
“When we selected him, it was very important for the city,” said Payton, “so his efforts are very appreciated.”
Despite the expectations, Bush appreciated the loyal fans and his time here.
“To the city of New Orleans you will always have a place in my heart I love you guys your are my family & I will never forget our good times,” he tweeted.