Los Angeles Times - Bush and Leinart Push Each Other Into Greatness
NEW YORK — Reggie Bush won, but it was Matt Leinart who pumped his left fist.
Reggie Bush won, but it was Matt Leinart who reached out for the first hug.
The USC running back won, but, as his lingering embrace with the USC quarterback illustrated, we all won, witnessing young men who did not personify the word "Heisman" as much as they defined the word "teammate."
Reggie Bush, who accepted the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football Saturday, nearly wept while delivering his acceptance speech.
Matt Leinart, who won the award last year, nearly wept when that speech included his name.
Bush thanked Leinart for changing his life.
Leinart helped change it by voting Bush first and not even putting his own name on his ballot.
Said Bush, who won by the largest percentage in history: "In many ways, Matt gave me the chance to win this thing."
Said Leinart, who finished third: "We have a special bond that nobody can take away."
Take a close look. Have a good listen. Do you know how rare this is?
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal couldn't do it. Jeff Kent and Milton Bradley couldn't do it.
On a chilly night at the Nokia Theatre, two kids showed us how they do it.
Two stars, one team. Two egos, one goal.
Two Heismans, and not one pose.
Said Bush: "That's the thing about this team, everyone puts their ego aside, everybody's humble."
Said Leinart: "It's not about me. It's never been about me."
In some ways, they couldn't be more different.
Bush is urban, Leinart is O.C. Bush rages, Leinart yawns.
Bush showed up Saturday night dressed in three-piece and pinstripes, while Leinart didn't even button the top of his shirt beneath his tie.
Yet in a consecutive-national-championship sort of way, they will go down together in Trojan history like cardinal and gold, like fight and on.
"It's been a great combination, a great obviously all-time 1-2 punch with the quarterback and running back," Coach Pete Carroll told reporters in a telephone interview Saturday. "I think the best part is how much regard and respect they have for one another."
The best part, and surely the hardest part.
This was only the second time in history that a Heisman Trophy winner shared a backfield with a teammate who finished in the top three in the same year.
The other time, it was Army running backs Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis finishing first and second in 1945.
That was West Point, this is Hollywood. Those chests were adorned with medals, today's chests are pounded by fists.
With college football's two best players sharing the same couple of yards of Coliseum real estate, so much could have happened, and so much of it could have been ugly.
By turning down millions to return for his senior season, Leinart could have expected the sort of treatment that would have allowed him to become only the second player in history to win his second consecutive Heisman.
But after working so hard this summer that he admittedly vomited during drills, returning fifth-place Heisman finisher Bush could have also expected the same sort of star push.
Who would demand the ball? Who would push for the interviews? Who would be on the cover of the media guide?
In answer to that last question, in a smart move approved by Pete Carroll, that cover was shared by both.
It may have been the first time a defending Heisman Trophy winner didn't have his own stage to himself. Leinart set the tone by saying it didn't matter.
Said Leinart: "That's not why I came back, I came back to win."
Said Leinart's father, Bob: "The way he handled himself this year, I'm more proud of him than ever."
In the sort of team atmosphere fostered by Carroll, both players had been watching each other's back for several seasons.
In Bush's freshman year, in his third game, it was Leinart who leveled a Hawaii defender with a block, springing him for a 28-yard gain in his first impact carry. Last season in the opener against Virginia Tech, Bush was there to launch the quarterback's Heisman campaign, turning five mostly short passes into 127 yards and three touchdowns.
"We've been there for each other for three years," said Leinart. "I love the guy, and I know he feels that way about me."
At the end of last season, while the rest of the country was voting for Leinart for the Heisman, Leinart was voting for Bush for team MVP.
This season, when it became clear from the opening win at Hawaii that the offense would revolve around Bush, Leinart continued to offer his support and advice.
"He would sit me down and tell me what to expect, how to handle the Heisman interviews and all that," said Bush.
When Bush was miffed at a midseason slowdown, Leinart calmed him down. When Bush occasionally struggled to break returns, Leinart reminded him of his greatness.
"It seemed like, whenever I struggled, Matt was there to pick me up, carry the team," said Bush. "Whenever I needed him, he was there."
In return, in a Notre Dame game that cemented Bush's Heisman candidacy, Bush cemented Leinart's legacy by pushing him over the goal line for the winning touchdown.
"My favorite play this season," Bush said, smiling.
It was a play that typified an era, two of perhaps the greatest players in college football history, clutching each other, leaning on each other, willing each other to a victory shared by all.
Their two Heismans are cool.
Their single, enduring lesson is greater.
Associated Press - Reggie Bush Wins Heisman Trophy
Bush is the seventh Trojan to receive honor.
NEW YORK (AP) - Reggie Bush left the competition far, far behind - as usual.
Southern California's incomparable junior tailback won the Heisman Trophy as college football's best player in a landslide Saturday night over Texas quarterback Vince Young and USC quarterback Matt Leinart, last year's winner.
Flashing uncanny acceleration and ability to change direction, Bush has conjured up memories of Gale Sayers, drawn comparisons to Marshall Faulk, Barry Sanders and Tony Dorsett, and is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft.
"Oh man, this is amazing," Bush said, with a row of former winners lining the stage behind him. "It's truly an honor to be elected to this fraternity. I've been in college for three years and it's the first time I've been invited into a fraternity."
Bush and Leinart will be the first Heisman winners to play for the same team in a college game when USC goes for a third straight national title against Texas in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4.
When Bush's name was announced, he bent over in his chair, and clasped his hands. When he reached the podium to give his acceptance speech, he started by letting out a huge sigh. He must have been the only one in doubt about the outcome.
Bush received 2,541 points to finish 933 points ahead of Young, with Leinart a distant third.
The 784 first-place votes received by Bush was the second-most in Heisman history, topped only by USC's O.J. Simpson, who had 855 in 1968. Bush was first in all six regions and appeared on 99 percent of the ballots, also a Heisman record.
This year's Heisman race appeared tight for much of the season, with Bush making a big statement in mid-October against Notre Dame. He ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns in South Bend, Ind., and provided the final push Leinart needed to score the winning TD in the closing seconds of a classic 34-31 victory.
But Bush was relatively quiet right after the Notre Dame game and Young seemed to have pulled ahead, with talk that two candidates from USC would cancel each other out.
That was until the night of Nov. 19, when Bush left Fresno State repeatedly grasping at air and onlookers grasping for superlatives to describe a performance that had to be seen to be truly appreciated.
He ran for 295 yards, racked up 513 all-purpose yards - the second-highest total in NCAA history - and USC escaped with a 50-42 victory.
If there was still any doubt Bush was best, he dispelled it against UCLA, running for 260 yards and two touchdowns in a 66-19 victory. Only the lopsided score kept Bush from doing even more damage.
As the Trojans completed another perfect regular season, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Bush would become the fifth USC tailback to win the Heisman, following Mike Garrett, Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen.
The 200-pounder from Spring Valley, Calif., just outside of San Diego, ran for 1,658 yards this season, a dizzying average of 8.9 yards per carry, while leading the nation in all-purpose yards with 217.9 per game.
USC now has produced seven Heisman winners, matching the record held by Notre Dame, and an unprecedented three in four years, starting with quarterback Carson Palmer in 2002.