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Carruci: Confident Bush Out To Live Up To Top Billing


He needs security guards to help keep away autograph-seekers as he walks through the hallways of the Indiana Convention Center. He is constantly being pulled in a variety of directions. NFL Network needs you for 20 minutes over here. Sirius NFL Radio needs you for 15 minutes over there. He can always expect a handshake or a pat on the back or any number of still and video cameras to follow his every move.

Such is the life of the projected top overall pick of the draft during the Scouting Combine, where the nation's top college football players have gathered for several days of endless physical and psychological examination by prospective employers.

Such is the life of Reggie Bush.

The former USC star running back handles it all with the poise of someone who is already used to receiving a great deal of attention. Not smug. Not cocky. Just cool. Just confident. Just a sense that lets you know he has done this before and will have no trouble doing it many times again.

"I'm competing to be the first pick, so it would be very important for me because I'm doing everything I can to position myself to be the No. 1 draft pick," Bush told the largest group of reporters to gather in front of any of the first group of prospects made available to the media.

He already has done plenty at USC by winning the Heisman Trophy and establishing himself as one of the more versatile playmakers to come along in many years. The Trojans have a major star at quarterback in Matt Leinart, but Bush is viewed as the player who likely will have a greater immediate impact.

It is quite possible that Bush and Leinart could be drafted first and second overall, by the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints, respectively. It also is possible that Texas quarterback Vince Young, whose draft stock skyrocketed with his phenomenal performance in the Rose Bowl, could end up as the top choice, particularly if the Texans decide to trade the pick.

The biggest difference between Bush and the quarterbacks is that whenever he gets the ball in his hands in the coming season, he is a legitimate threat to take it the distance. He can do it as a runner or as a receiver. Think Marshall Faulk in his prime.

There is a chance that neither quarterback will touch the ball in the 2006 regular season. There also is a chance that Leinart could prove to be every bit as effective as Bush, if not more so, right away. Ditto for Young. There are other less-publicized players in this college crop who could very well emerge as equally strong, if not stronger, game-breakers. It always happens.

But right now, Bush is the man. Right now, he has the defining name and face of the '06 draft.

"I feel like whatever team I do go to, I can help out a lot," Bush said. "If I were about to go to Houston and they already have a great quarterback and a great receiver, maybe it's just the little piece to the puzzle that they're missing. Hopefully I'll be able to help them out a lot and help them win some more games. I'm not saying we're going to go to a Super Bowl right away, but hopefully we can work toward that."

The biggest knock on him is his lack of size, which has raised questions about whether he could withstand the physical demands of being an every-down back. There were key situations in the Rose Bowl when he was replaced by the larger and stronger LenDale White, another projected first-rounder for the Trojans. Bush has been measured here at 5-foot-113/4 and 201 pounds. He has made a conscious effort to add some bulk to his frame because he knows that is an area of concern for some NFL teams. He is determined to make it less of an issue.

"That's something that I feel like I want to, I guess -- emphasize to the teams, whatever team that takes me, that I can be an every-down back, even though I'm not the biggest guy," Bush said. "I'm not 220 pounds. I can still carry the load and be in there when the game is on the line. Obviously I'm going to want the ball in my hands. I'm a playmaker."

As is typically the case with high-profile players, he won't take part in Combine workouts. He is saving his 40-yard dash and various agility drills for the Trojans' Pro Day on April 2 at USC.

Bush will talk with Texans representatives and other teams looking to get a better handle on his personality. He thinks he can enhance his chances of becoming the top overall pick by doing an exceptional job in the intelligence and psychological testing that all clubs give.

"That's a big part," Bush said. "That's just as big as the physical part."

What should fans expect from him on Sunday afternoons this fall?

"Hopefully the same things that you (saw) from me all through my college career: great plays, hopefully winning championships, winning games," he said. "I look forward to doing it all."

Judging by the demands he is already facing, Bush seems to be well on his way.

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