Ryan Chartrand

Devastation, depletion, adversity and hardship are just a few words that could be used to describe one of the deadliest natural disasters in the history of the United States – Hurricane Katrina.

The New Orleans Saints (4-1) are one of the best NFL stories in years. After winning three games all of last year, they were forced to play through circumstances that no other team in the league had ever experienced. They were forced to play home games on the road and practice in empty warehouses and parking lots because of limited facilities.

To say that the 2005 NFL season would be one that the Saints and their fans would like to forget would probably be an understatement.

On the other hand, the 2006 season has been a complete turnaround for the team and its fans. By the end of Week 4 this season, the Saints had already equaled their win total (3) of last year. The Saints have not only given this historic city hope but the people who inhabit the area the belief that there is life after Katrina.

You may be able to attribute this turnaround to a young man who was never even supposed to play in New Orleans. Reggie Bush was maybe an easier choice than when Michael Jordan went No. 1 to the Houston Rockets 22 years ago. Oh no, I forgot Jordan slipped to third in the draft and ended up playing for the Chicago Bulls. So if I’m seeing this correctly, Houston has made two of the worst draft-day decisions in the history of professional sports.

Some would argue that Hakeem Olajuwon won two NBA titles and is easily a first ballot Hall of Famer. I’m not arguing that at all, but let’s just realize on point. If it wasn’t for Jordan giving up professional basketball and trying to play baseball for two seasons, the Rockets would have never sniffed a championship. Jordan would have had eight straight instead of six by virtue of two three-peats. If Mario Williams turns out to be half the pro Olajuwon was for his sport, the Texans will be ecstatic. Highly unlikely.

The point here is that Jordan was picked third and the rest is history. Just like Bush plays in New Orleans and not Houston, and now bears the weight of an entire city that was looking for someone to save it.

If you Google search “Reggie Bush high school highlight videos” (I recommend it), you will see it’s like a UFC fight with Chuck Liddell against anyone else; it just isn’t fair. In college he took it to an entirely new level. He broke out his sophomore year as the most electrifying player in college football and by his junior season was the Heisman Trophy winner. When the Saints were given this gift, letting Bush fall into their lap, they couldn’t have been happier.

When Bush first arrived in New Orleans, Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King was doing a cover story on him. King first attended Saints mini-camp to see how Bush would adapt to the speed of the NFL. It was hard for him to think because the entire practice facility was sold out with fans chanting: “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!”

While at a local restaurant for lunch, King witnessed something even more powerful. Before the two could even sit down, the entire place stood up and gave Bush a standing ovation.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” King remarked about the incident. “I have been covering sports for over 25 years and have never felt anything like that.”

Bush worked with his sponsors to do everything possible to help out the victims of Katrina. He even helped donate 12 Hummers to the local police department, where Capt. Rob Callahan had this to say about the young star: “In this area, Reggie Bush is, for lack of a better word, a god,” Callahan said. “I don’t think there is anyone in our area who doesn’t know Reggie and what he’s doing for the victims of the hurricane.”

How could Bush possibly live up to all the hype? Let’s just say the NFL might have just found its next great ambassador. He currently leads the league in receptions (34) and just scored his first NFL touchdown in a win over Tampa Bay. I don’t think I mentioned it was a game-winning 65-yard punt return.

Just like Jordan, Bush wasn’t No. 1 when his professional career began. There is no question in anyone’s mind that Jordan not only revolutionized the game and will be remembered as the greatest player of all-time.

Bush, like Jordan, has a unique opportunity to do this for the NFL. The only difference between the two is that Chicago was not covered in water in 1984, and its residents were not depending on him to be a savior in every aspect of life. They once said, “I wanna be like Mike.” Maybe now everyone will say: “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!”

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