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A Saint Comes Marching In

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Reggie Bush joins the New Orleans franchise and boosts the morale of the entire city

At a time when New Orleans truly needs it most, the tattered city is the recipient of a remarkable gift: Reggie Bush, the über-talented first-round draft pick out of the University of Southern California. The second overall pick and perhaps the hottest prospect of the 2006 NFL Draft will be the running back for the New Orleans Saints. Nothing could be more heavenly for the thousands of dedicated fans who have stuck by the team for years.

One of the most impressive offensive players to enter the NFL in a long time, Bush was a Heisman Trophy winner in 2005 and the Associated Press Player of the Year, thanks to his remarkable record at USC. While at Helix High School in La Mesa, CA, Bush was a 2002 Parade All- American and USA Today All-USA selection. But along with the incredible accolades he garnered during his prep and NCAA careers, it’s Bush’s generous spirit toward this heartbroken city-before he’s even played a regular-season NFL game for the Saints-that deserves high praise.
Along with his sponsor, Adidas, Bush donated $50,000 to Holy Rosary Academy and High School after learning of the school’s financial challenges, and another $86,000 to help seed the field at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park after it was ravaged by Katrina’s flood waters.

In June, through his sponsor Hummer, Bush was on hand at the Slidell Police Department when General Motors officials from its Shreveport plant announced that GM would be happily extending its loan of 12 Hummer H3’s to Louisiana state agencies for an additional year to continue hurricane recovery. Bush plans to continue his support of charitable causes that will ultimately help in the rebuilding of New Orleans, in every way he can.

During his studies as a political science major at USC, Bush’s nickname was “the President.” Taking full advantage of that fact, President George W. Bush hilariously singled him out during USC’s visit to the White House in March of 2004 in honor of its shared national championship! Because of Reggie Bush’s selfless dedication to the New Orleans community, he has earned the fitting nickname of “Saint Reggie.” As the city continues to mend, we can’t help but feel immensely blessed to have this guardian angel on our side!

Do you think it was destiny for you to be picked to play for the Saints and be with us here in New Orleans to support the city and help us out after Katrina?
I think so. I really do think it was destiny, for sure.

You are new to the city, and it seems like you are really liking New Orleans a lot. Do you feel like you can get a good sense of what this city is all about, even amid all the devastation and repair that’s going on?
Yes, I’m meeting all kinds of different people, fans and teammates. Through them, I’m learning what New Orleans is all about, and for me, I think the main focus right now is football and in doing my part to help rebuild New Orleans, which
obviously needs a lot of work. But, although I am a newcomer to this great city, I can tell by the people I’ve met that it is a special place. The spirit and determination of the people who live here still shines.

What will be your expected role in the offense?
I’m just playing running back, so obviously I’ll be running the ball. I’m going to be spread out wide as a receiver. Sometimes, Deuce [McAllister] and I may need to be in the backfield at the same time and sometimes I’ll be returning punts and kicks, so pretty much I’ll be doing all the same things I did at USC.

How are the new players like you mixing with the veterans on the team?
It’s working very well so far. All the players are very receptive and supportive of me coming in and are helpful. It’s been great.

OK, have you really gotten the gist of the level of excitement you have caused down here by playing for the Saints?
[Laughs] I’ve gotten a little bit of that. Once I got drafted, the next day we came in to New Orleans, and we went to dinner with Sean Payton at Chef Emeril’s restaurant. So we get there and walk in and everybody stands up and starts cheering and I almost thought it was staged … but Coach Payton told me that they’re not that organized to do something like that! [Laughs] It was a great feeling for me. And I think just being down here is going to be a big boost to the city of New Orleans, for the people and the fans, to give them something positive to look forward to. And that’s all we want to do is help the city.

What is the dynamic like between you and new Saints Head Coach Sean Payton?
So far it’s working out really well. Payton is a great coach and he knows his stuff and he knows what he wants to do. I really like him; he’s a great guy. He’s a first-year coach and I think that the key is just to show confidence in
yourself and your teammates. Obviously it’s a lot of pressure that’s been placed on his shoulders. At the same time, he’s done well in recent history. I think he can stand the test.

Are you ready for the tears that might be shed when the Saints first start playing their home games again? It will be pretty emotional after not playing in New Orleans since Katrina.
Yes, I am ready. For me, once I got the chance to tour the Ninth Ward and
I saw all of the devastation, I realized that we’re playing for a whole lot more than just football games. We are playing for the city of New Orleans, in an effort to rebuild the city. We’re playing not just for the Super Bowl-it’s a lot
more than that.

And it’s just so important that the Saints are physically playing in New Orleans versus San Antonio.
Oh, yeah, absolutely.

So what are you really digging about New Orleans?
The food! I love the food. There is some great food here.

You must be used to the food in California, though. It’s also good, maybe just a little different.
I grew up in San Diego and I grew up on Mexican food. They’ve got great Mexican food down in San Diego. For me, it is different, but I like the food in New Orleans. I love Creole food.
But with your job, I’m sure you want a good clean salad every now and then in your system!
Of course! [Laughs]
What types of charities do you try to participate in? Any specific causes?
No, not exactly, we mostly just take them as they come. If I could do every charity, I would. I just look forward to trying to help in any way I can, any little bit.
But you’re not helping a “little bit,” you are helping a lot. In fact, I understand that you have a new nickname, “Saint Reggie.”
[Laughs] I heard that name! Well, that’s really cool! A bona fide, canonized Saint already …. Already! [Laughs] It is really cool.

And you’ve earned that name because of the amount of charity you’ve done for the city in just a short amount of time. How exactly did the name come about?
I think it started with Holy Rosary, when we first donated money to them. During the presentation, they presented me with a plaque and the monsignor brought up a plaque with the actual Saint Reginald on it. But it was cool knowing there was an actual saint with that name.

So tell me: How are the ladies down here treating you?
[Big laugh] You know, I haven’t had the chance yet to meet many people in the short time I’ve been down here. It’s just working out, football and then back to the hotel. That’s pretty much my schedule.

Well, I’m sure the ladies will start to swarm once the season starts!
Reggie: [Big Laugh] Bush’s agent, Mike Ornstein, pipes in: All the prospective ladies have to go through his agent!
Reggie: Through my agent and my mom, that’s for sure! The girls have to pass the test!

So how much do you love driving your Hummer around town?
I love it! It’s great; I love my car. Through my deal with Hummer, I do a lot of PR stuff and appearances for them. But I think I’m the first person to take my car and still spend tons of money tricking it out, changing the rims, adding
accessories, all that stuff. I love it!

What are you hoping for this year? I know you are going to lead us to a championship!
Ultimately, everybody hopes to play for the Super Bowl and that’s my goal. Having a Super Bowl legacy is the main goal you should play for every year. And that’s what I’m looking forward to doing. Plus, it’s a blessing for me to be
in this position to help the city of New Orleans. I will do all I can.