Tuesday, April 25, 2006 | Another NFL Draft Day is approaching and another Helix High alumnus is in position to become the first pick of the draft. Ho, hum.
Last year it was Alex Smith, the Utah All-American quarterback and 2004 Heisman Trophy finalist picked first overall by the San Francisco 49ers.
This year it’s Reggie Bush, the USC All-American running back and 2005 Heisman Trophy winner expected to be chosen first by the Houston Texans Saturday when the two-day, seven-round draft begins.
And don’t forget that the original No. 1 draft pick from the La Mesa school was Bill Walton, the Helix alum picked No. 1 out of UCLA in the 1974 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Bush’s draft-day story has been clouded by USC’s request that the Pac-10 investigate whether Bush’s parents violated NCAA rules by living in a home purchased by a prospective agent, but that’s USC’s problem. The approval ratings of this Bush should be immune to any developing scandals.
If Houston’s staff over-analyzes the draft and finds a reason to select someone besides Bush, they’ll be infamously sorry. I almost spit up my coffee when I heard the Texans were negotiating with Bush and North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams as their possible choices as the first pick.
Choosing anyone besides Bush will turn out to be akin to the Portland Trail Blazers selecting Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in 1984 because they needed a center. Yes, some general manager actually came to that conclusion.
Bush is a four-way threat – running back, receiver and kick and punt return man. That’s how he rolls up those 500-yard all-purpose yard games. It’s not likely the Texans will pass on Bush, but don’t think it isn’t possible.
Remember, USC coach Pete Carroll is supposed to be a bright mind, and he out-thought himself when he placed Bush on the sideline for the decisive fourth-and-two play against Texas that came up short and ultimately decided the national championship at last season’s Rose Bowl.
I can understand the decision to run the ball with LenDale White as your power back, but don’t you, at the very least, have Bush split wide to draw a couple of defenders away from inching toward the off-tackle play that gained only one yard?
I keep picturing that shot TV showed us of Bush standing on the sideline as the Trojans approached the line of scrimmage for the fateful play. It would make a good pilot script for television series about bizarre sports decisions – “Twilight Zone Sports.”
The only question surrounding Bush’s success in the NFL is if the Texans fail to use him wisely and how quickly the team builds an offensive line to support him.
Most football people don’t understand how special the combination of Bush’s world-class speed and football instincts is, even at the NFL level.
Forget the supposed 4.3-seconds 40-yard sprint times of the fastest NFL wide receivers and cornerbacks. Bush’s foot speed can make them look pedestrian in a sprint. Bush could have been an Olympic sprinter if he desired and hadn’t put on the weight he needs in football.
Bob Hayes, the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and 1964 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meters, had world-class speed, but he didn’t have the world-class instincts Bush possesses with the ball in his hands.
Line up all the football players of note in the history of the NFL and probably only Hayes could outrun Bush.
Last year’s No. 1 draft pick distinctly remembers when he first learned about Bush. Smith was a sophomore at Helix on the JV team and Bush a ninth-grader on the freshman team.
“Helix is good in football, so every year there are talented players and the freshmen team goes undefeated,” Smith said. “Every year there is a freshman running back that looks good, but you wonder how good he’ll be at the next level.”
Smith soon found out once spring football workouts began. It was the beginning of their two-year partnership that led to back-to-back CIF San Diego Section Division II titles in 2000 and 2001.
“We were playing 7-on-7 with no pads and I threw a crossing route to him,” Smith recalled. “It was a joke – guys were diving at him and they couldn’t touch him. He was still a freshman and these were talented varsity guys that he was making look ridiculous. He’d go untouched. That’s when I knew he was special. It was funny to watch him.”
Just about everyone in football knows now how special Bush is now, although Pete Carroll forgot for one play last season.
If the Texans forget on draft day and don’t make him the first pick, I’m putting in calls to TV networks and proposing my idea for a TV series pilot.
Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at