Thrilling Bush Is AP Player of the Year

Monday, December 19th 2005, 1:38 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Reggie Bush loves roller coasters _ and it makes perfect sense. Both bring thrills with breathtaking bursts of zigzag speed. ``I guess that's kind of how I am on the field all those twists and turns and stuff like that,'' Southern California's human thrill ride said.

The most exciting player in college football also became the best player in 2005, and now Bush can add The Associated Press Player of the Year award to the haul of hardware he's accumulated.

The voting went like it did in the Heisman Trophy balloting: The running back blew away the field. He received 59 votes from a panel of 65 media members.

Texas quarterback Vince Young received five votes and Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley got the other.

Bush and the top-ranked Trojans will play Young and No. 2 Texas in the Rose Bowl for the national championships.

Bush has also won the Walter Camp player of the year award, the Doak Walker Award as best running back in the country and was a unanimous AP first-team All-American.

For the third straight season, the AP player of the year and Heisman winner are the same. USC quarterback Matt Leinart won both last season, and Jason White of Oklahoma did it the year before.

Bush is the first running back to win AP Player of the Year since 1999, when Ron Dayne of Wisconsin did it.

Ricky Williams of Texas won the first AP Player of the Year award in 1998.

Bush, a 200-pound package of fast-twitch muscles, put to rest any doubt that he could be an every-down back this year _ more than just an elusive change-of-pace runner and explosive kick returner.

He added a solid five pounds to his 6-foot frame and got a taste of how one of the best in the business prepares when he worked out with San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson during the summer.

The two have known each other since Bush was a senior at Helix High School, just outside San Diego. They finally managed to coordinate a training session and Tomlinson left Bush wiped out.

``I think he's the best running back right now and I just wanted to get a chance to work out with him, see what it takes to be that guy and get to the level he's at,'' Bush said in a recent phone interview. ``Whatever you think is the most you can work out, double that.''

Bush closed the season with two spectacular games, slashing and swerving his way to 554 yards rushing in wins over Fresno State and UCLA.

His stop-in-mid-sprint-and-cut-across-the-field TD run against the Bulldogs was the ultimate showstopper in a Heisman-clinching performance. Bush put up 513 all-purpose yards in a 50-42 victory.

For the season, he has 1,658 yards rushing with an 8.9-yard average per carry.

Only lopsided victories and USC's all-star cast kept Bush's numbers down. The Trojans' record-setting offense became the first in NCAA history to have a 3,000-yard passer (Matt Leinart), two 1,000-yard rushers (Bush and LenDale White), and a 1,000-yard receiver (Dwayne Jarrett).

Bush acknowledges that sharing the spotlight _ and the football _ hasn't always been easy, even as USC racked up 37 wins in 38 games and two national championships during his career.

``Even though we're winning, there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes,'' he said. ``I think at times it might have been a little frustrating just wanting to be that guy, the main guy. But we've learned to adjust to it. I think that was mainly a problem early in my career here, like my freshman year, just trying to adjust to not being the guy.''

Now the question is, will Bush hang around for another season at USC. He appears to be a lock to go No. 1 in the NFL draft, maybe to play with former high school teammate Alex Smith in San Francisco.

The junior has only said he'll decide after the Rose Bowl, though at least one media report, citing anonymous sources, stated he has already made up his mind and won't return for his senior year.

Whether it's sooner or later, Bush will eventually make his living doing the only thing he's ever really wanted to do.

``It's kind of hard for me to imagine myself not playing football because I've been doing that my whole life,'' he said. ``I know if I wasn't playing football I'd be doing something connected to sports.''