With the Dolphins second round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, rookie RB Daniel Thomas became more than he could have bargained for as the heir apparent to the running back due of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, and at the time of the pick, was seen as a workhorse back the Dolphins were ready to ride until the wheels fell off.
But during his first training camp, it was only apparent that he was not mentally prepared for the grind of an NFL training camp, which was anplified due to the team, like all other 29 teams, scrambling to get as much practice and film knocked out as possible with a strike shortened preseason. It was noticed by his coaches, who expected the hard hitting one cut back that they thought they were gettting, the defense, who saw the talent and measurables yet were not impressed and begged him to hit the hole with purpose and stregnth and himself. He, admittedly, was reluctant to hit the ground or the pile running hard and it cost him respect at the beginning of the season.
Unfortunately for Thomas, an overly uninspiring training camp that saw his teammates question him and he himself, coupled with injuries that haunted through the first half of his first pro season, saw the rookie struggle mightily, to the chagrin of Dolphins management and the fans who watched.
Enter Reggie Bush.
In July of last year, once the strike had passed and teams could begin amending rosters, the Dolphins entered trade talks with the NFC South Champion New Orleans centered around 2006 second overall selection Reggie Bush. As the Dolphin faithful opined against Bush’s addition, the short history and relationship Bush had developed in his time as a Saint, through Katrina, the Super Bowl and Kardashians, Bush was reluctant to open himself up to a change. However, it was Coach Sparano’s insistence upon Bush becoming his feature back that gave Bush the situation it would take to take him from New Orleans.But it would soon be learned thereafter that Bush would share the load with rookie Thomas and that he would be eased, if not protected, in light of his injury history, with the load sharing. And yet Bush did not waver, exhibiting traits the Dolphins had drooled over but that we cannot see on tape. It wasn’t the blazing speed and abrupt quickness that he exhibited in practice that left the Dolphins defense raving. But it was the work ethic he showed to make himself a workhorse back, and how much he helped his teammates, where most prima-donnas would have sulked and sabotaged their teams. And his teammates noticed his determination, break neck pace and humble demeanor…and followed.
It started with the fact that Reggie would stay 60 minutes after practice to run wind sprints, catch extra passes and sign autographs for the kids who waited patiently for him to finish. He would pull sleds, do agility drills and plyometrics with the trainers to do whatever it took to get the extra edge. Then, as his relationship grew with his teammates, most notably with Charles Clay and Daniel Thomas, his practices became team practices. More and more players would join to do extra after practice, never wavering to get better, led by Bush, through what would be a horrible test of a season.
Even as Thomas started weeks 2-6 and out carried Bush 82 to 65, Bush never wavered. And his ability to pass block, undoubtedly started at USC and nurtured in New Orleans, allowed him to be on the field for nearly all the Dolphins passing plays, a sign of the teams trust in his ability. But is wasn’t until week 8 that Bush finally put the hard hat on and really got it working. From week 7 to week 16, only Maurice Jones Drew, Ray Rice and Marshawn Lynch outgained Reggie Bush from the Backfield, and that is with Reggie missing the season finale against the (rush) defensively challenged New York Jets. It was his willingness to shed the soft tag that was placed on him due to his lack of carries in N.O. and injuries that delayed his career. It was willingness to lead and leave everything on the field every game that
made him stand out as the best offensive weapon for the Dolphins with nearly 1400 yards from scrimmage. He even showed his tough side to the world in doing push ups almost immediately after a de-cleating hit by the Raiders Aaron Curry.
Overall, in the last 9 games, Bush has rushed for 854 rushing yards, with five 100-yard games, and his first ever 200 yard game in the NFL. It is this Reggie Bush, that has a knack for busting big plays, a nose for the endzone, and a tireless work ethic that New Orleans saw in the Heisman Winner in the 2006 Draft.
There is no doubt that, his league leading 5.0 yards per carry, first ever 1,000 yard season, mentoring of a young Daniel Thomas and influence over the team in practice that has gotten him the attention that he lost for so long. But it is his ability to take advantage of every opportunity and second of the day to get better that will keep him there and hopefully make he and the Dolphins a better team in 2012.