USC running back Bush to skip senior season

Updated: January 12, 2006, 9:28 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Reggie Bush is skipping his senior season at Southern California to enter the NFL draft.

Reggie Bush
AP Photo/Reed Saxon"I'll be excited to show any critics that I can be an every-down back," Reggie Bush said Thursday.

The Heisman Trophy winner made the expected announcement Thursday, a day after running mate LenDale White made his decision to leave early and turn pro.

Bush is expected to be one of the first players taken in the draft, with many projecting him going to the Houston Texans with the No. 1 pick.

"If they were to pick me, I wouldn't have a problem with that. I'm just excited to have an opportunity to make my mark at the next level, just to play for an NFL team," Bush said Thursday at a news conference on campus.

"Whatever team I go to, whether it's the Texans or another team, I hope I can build the same kind of relationships that I did with my teammates here."

The electrifying running back had 1,740 yards rushing and 2,890 all-purpose yards this season for the Trojans, who fell short of an unprecedented third national title when they lost 41-38 to Texas in the Rose Bowl last week.

"It's a happy day, I don't think it's a sad time," Bush said at a news conference. "It was tough. ... You want to please everybody. You want to return for your senior season."

Trojans coach Pete Carroll said Bush made the right decision.

"He's such a special player, a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He's a game-changer, with his speed, instincts, vision and competitiveness. He's just so much fun to watch," Carroll said in a statement.

"He'll take that talent to the NFL and wow them there as a runner, receiver and as a returner. Now the Reggie Bush Show goes to Sundays, and I can't wait to watch him."

Carroll couldn't be at the news conference because he was in Northern California to attend the funeral of USC linebacker Rey Maualuga's father. Talatonu Maualuga died after a long illness.

Wherever Bush winds up in the draft, he'll become a rich man.

Asked about the probability of becoming a multimillionaire, Bush laughed and said, "It hasn't sunk in yet. I don't think it will until I get that first check."

Bush, who turns 21 in March, has flashed such blinding speed, great moves and an uncanny ability to change direction that he's been compared to such greats as Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders, Tony Dorsett and Marshall Faulk.

Bush, a 6-foot, 200-pounder from Spring Valley, Calif., averaged 8.7 yards per carry. He also caught 37 passes for 478 yards and led the nation in all-purpose yards with 222.3 per game.

How will all that translate to the NFL?

"There are all those questions: Are you big enough, strong enough, fast enough, tough enough?" Bush said. "I'll have to position myself to have an impact right away, and that will take a lot of hard work.

"I'll be excited to show any critics that I can be an every-down back."

Bush was a runaway winner of the Heisman, with Texas quarterback Vince Young far back in second place. Matt Leinart, Bush's teammate the past three years and the 2004 Heisman winner, was third. Those players figure to go 1-2-3 in the NFL draft on April 29.

Most All-Purpose Yards Single Season*
'88 Barry Sanders, Oklahoma St. 3,250
'91 Ryan Benjamin, Pacific 2,995
'05 Reggie Bush, USC 2,890
'98 Troy Edwards, La Tech 2,784
'03 Darren Sproles, Kansas St. 2,735
* I-A History

The Texans, though, already have a young quarterback in David Carr so they could opt for Bush and pass on a hometown hero. Houston has 3½ months to make a decision.

Had Bush stayed in school, he would have had a chance to join Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winners. Griffin won the award in 1974-75.

After winning his Heisman, Leinart decided to return to USC for his senior year although he almost surely would have been among the top players picked in last April's draft.

As a quarterback, Leinart was in a far different situation than Bush, since running backs are such a target, with even the best at risk every time they carry the ball. On average, standout running backs have far shorter pro careers than top quarterbacks.

Bush came to USC as one of the most highly recruited prep players in the country. He shared the tailback position for three years with White, and the two combined for 99 career touchdowns, breaking the NCAA record of 97 set by Army's Glenn Davis and Felix "Doc" Blanchard from 1943-46.

Bush represented the "Lightning" to White's "Thunder" at USC. Bush rushed for 3,169 yards and White 3,159, helping the Trojans go 37-2. They had won 34 straight before losing to Texas.

White, a 6-2, 235-pounder from Denver who turned 21 last month, rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl, probably improving his standing with NFL scouts. He scored a school-record 57 career touchdowns.

Said Bush: "Now 'Thunder' and 'Lightning' are gone from USC."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press