Blend of football IQ, aggressive play defines Steelers’ top pick Devin Bush
Albert Guzzo, the athletic director at Charles W. Flanagan High School, was standing near his team’s bench during the Florida Class 8A state championship game against Osceola.
During a break, the referee approached Guzzo with a question.
“Do you have Osceola’s playbook?” he said.
Guzzo tried not to be offended when he said, “ ‘No, what’s going on?’ ”
“Well,” the ref said, “your linebacker is calling out the plays before they’re running them.”
The linebacker was Devin Bush, who only 3½ years later, is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round draft choice.
Reminded of the story Friday afternoon at his introductory news conference, the former Michigan linebacker and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year allowed himself a modest smile. How did he know so much about the opponent?
“Just studying film,” he said. “l’m a big film rat. I just love to watch film of football — especially if I’m playing against an opponent — to see what advantage I could take.
“Anytime,I wasn’t playing football or doing homework, I was on my phone watching film.”
But it’s more than a cerebral approach Bush brings to the game. He plays with clear passion, especially when his coach —and the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin might be one of them — allows him to blitz.
“I feel like that is what I do best,” he said. “I can run. I can cover. I can blitz. I can do everything. It’s just fun to freely go and destroy something.”
His sense of family and loyalty is also something he isn’t afraid to display.
Before the Michigan State game last year in East Lansing, a group of Spartans marched arm-in-arm through some Michigan players who were going through warmup drills.
Harsh words were exchanged, and Bush took out his frustration by running to the middle of the field and ripping apart the Spartans logo with his cleats. Workers used spray paint to restore it before kickoff.
“That was just me,” Bush said. “That was me representing my team and not letting another team feel like they can come in there and intimidate us and we were just going to take it.
“I was sticking up for my team, and I know they would do the same for me.”
Bush’s loyalty comes to him naturally from his father, former NFL safety Devin Bush, who was also his head coach at Flanagan.
“We believe in one another,” he said of his family that includes two sisters, one of whom is Florida State softball player Deja Bush.
“We always push each other no matter what it was, athletics, anything, through the hard times, through the best times.
“Just being able to represent my last name, my family’s last name, is a testament to my family and the support they have for me.”
But it wasn’t always slaps on the back and smiles.
“I’m not going to say it was a luxury,” he said of playing for his dad.
His father, who was a first-round draft choice of the Atlanta Falcons in 1995 and won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams, pushed his son hard, Bush said.
“Sometimes, he was really, really hard on me. I didn’t understand why sometimes,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t want to play football anymore.
“As I got older and I understood what he put me through, I knew it got me ready for moments like this.”
Bush made it clear he isn’t afraid to set high goals. He was reminded that the past two times the Steelers traded up in the first round, they drafted a future Hall of Famer (Troy Polamalu) and a Super Bowl MVP (Santonio Holmes).
Without blinking, Bush said, “I want to be both of those.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .