FORT WAYNE – Now that he has returned home and has rekindled his passion for football, Kevin Bush’s life has come full circle. And what a wide orbit it has been.
Although his odyssey began with the typical journey taken by many of his Saint Francis teammates – the one from high school senior to incoming freshman – the path has varied significantly since then. He didn’t just veer from the mainstream route; he jumped from it.
He graduated from Homestead in 2004, and even though he tried the conventional path when he signed on to play tight end at Toledo the following fall, the plan didn’t take root. After a few months of missing home and missing friends, he was out of Toledo and out of football.
What he lacked, he would say later, was maturity.
So he went into the Army – 3 1/2 years of it. He was stationed in Korea. He spent 14 months in Iraq. He put in his time and got out.
With four years of football eligibility still intact, he walked on at Indiana University in the fall of ’09, even though he couldn’t play that season because of the NCAA transfer rules. Still, he was a hellion on the scout team and was named the IU scout team player of the year. The following season he played a dozen games at a new position – defensive end. But three games as a special teams player into his junior year – the 2011 season – Bush bagged it again and left.
I didn’t get the opportunities that I wanted, says Bush, who refused to blame new Indiana coach Kevin Wilson for his departure. In fairness, I don’t think I was doing the things that were asked of me. It was a new defense. I had never played defense prior to coming to college, so I felt the style of D’ they wanted and the expectations – I didn’t quite meet those expectations. By no means do I feel I was shorted or anything like that. I just feel like it didn’t work out for me.
And there he was again; a football player without a football team.
But because Saint Francis expressed interest in him during his Homestead days, and because assistant coach Joey Didier is a personal friend who was a senior when Bush was a Spartans freshman, and because the competitive embers were still smoldering within him, fast forward to an overcast day inside Bishop D’Arcy Stadium. It’s where 27-year-old Kevin Bush, a chiseled, heavily tattooed 6-foot-4, 257-pound picture of intensity sits with his third team, posing for pictures while wearing his electric blue No. 7 jersey.
This time, he says with assurance, is for keeps.
I’m running out of time, says Bush, who has two years of eligibility remaining. I’m not sure how much longer they’re going to let me do this.
His body, he says, is strong, and his mindset is in the proper place. It’s not that he just wants to play; it’s that he needs to play.
It’s a man’s game, and you’ve got to be physical, he says. It’s fun. For me, with my personality, I need it, almost. I need that competition. I need that opportunity to have that aggression and go out there.
But that’s not all of it.
They’re giving me a lot of roles to play on this team, and it’s fun to have the opportunity to do different things. At the same time, I feel like I can do a lot to help guys on the team and offer a lot as far as life lessons and this and that.
He has teammates almost a decade younger than him. They’re kids, still. He’s been in a war. He’s played Big Ten football. And by his own admission, he’s made mistakes and will still make some. But if he can help the younger ones who’ll listen, maybe they won’t make the same mistakes.
He’s older. He’s wiser, Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley says. He’s been through a lot in his life already.