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Monday, December 12, 2005

Bush Wins!

Not the president.

I’m actually referring to the recent Heisman Trophy winner, USC running back sensation, Reggie Bush. Saturday evening the results of the balloting for this prestigious award were tabulated with the clear winner being Bush.

I found myself intrigued by this young man’s story. His mother didn’t want him to play football because she didn’t think he was big enough. This kid’s talent is so awesome that I can think of only one other running back in my lifetime that was so elusive a runner, the former Detroit Lions great, Barry Sanders.

Football is a game I truly enjoy. But more than the on-field dramatics of great players and great teams, I’m fascinated by the off-the-field stories of lives that have battled against the odds – and won. I’m referring to young men who chose to do something constructive with their lives and would not allow negative circumstances or troubling home conditions determine the direction for their lives.

In a day and age when humility is a rare find among pampered athletes, particularly in professional sports, I was most gratified to see this young man show humility - genuine humility - on Saturday night. There he sat with the two other contenders for the trophy, both deserving of the award on their own merit. In spite of a media that had already crowned Bush as the next Heisman Trophy winner, when the announcement was made, young Mr. Bush bowed his head as the room of elites erupted in applause. I can’t say for certain, but it seemed to me Reggie was fighting back tears.

Reggie Bush stood to his feet while being congratulated by the runners-up, Matt Leinart and Vince Young. He then walked over to his mother to give her a long embrace, followed by his stepfather, and brother. Once he walked up on the platform he immediately began to shake hands with all the previous winners of the coveted trophy. The moderator had to retrieve him so they could come to the podium and make the official presentation. If he had a prepared speech, I believe it was abandoned. He truly looked like a man who couldn’t believe he was being so honored. It was at this point that Reggie Bush captured my emotional interest.

Among the many folks he thanked for helping him and supporting him along the way, including his coaches and his pastor, it’s the words he said about his mother that really stuck. He thanked her for being a godly woman. Are there any greater words of praise that he could have said? I couldn’t help but think of the passage of scripture in Proverbs 31 where the godly woman is extolled. Among the virtues described for the woman of noble character is this: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”

For his stepfather, Lamar Griffin, Reggie simply said, “You took me in at the age of two. . .” Reggie teared up at that point, stepping back from the microphone to collect himself. The camera switched to a shot of his stepfather seated in the audience. Tears in his eyes, Mr. Griffin mouthed the words to his stepson, “I love you.” It was at that point that tears were finding their way down my cheeks!

Lest you think Bush is another pampered college football player, consider what he was doing while waiting for the evenings events to begin. He was in a back office connected to the internet where he was printing out notes for three exams this week which he would then study until the Heisman Trophy ceremony began. When asked about this, he said, "They (the exams) start on Wednesday when I get back. Sports psychology, and on Thursday, I've got two political science exams: one on the presidency, one on black politics."

Reggie has another year of school before he can graduate. I suspect the NFL will throw some wild dollar figures at him to entice him to leave school early so he can be drafted into the NFL this spring. I hope he takes the same approach as his teammate and last year’s Heisman winner, Matt Leinart, who turned down turning pro in order to finish his education.

It will be with great interest that I will be watching to see what decisions this young man makes. This much I can tell you: whether he turns pro before finishing school, or waits till after he graduates, or decides not to play ball at all, with a strong, supportive family, he’s a winner.

Moms and Dads, let me ask you. What would your children say about the impact you have had on their lives?

When family comes first, everybody wins!

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