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Dec. 10, 2005: Running back Reggie Bush of the USC Trojans poses with the 2005 Heisman trophy after winning the award at the 71st Annual Heisman Ceremony in New York City.
Sometimes, a running back just needs to go to the ground. Gaining an extra half a yard is not worth the injury and pain it brings. Sometimes it’s just not worth the fight.
"One of the greatest honors of my life was winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005. For me, it was a dream come true. But I know that the Heisman is not mine alone. Far from it. I know that my victory was made possible by the discipline and hard work of my teammates, the steady guidance of my coaches, the inspiration of the fans, and the unconditional love of my family and friends. And I know that any young man fortunate enough to win the Heisman enters into a family of sorts. Each individual carries the legacy of the award and each one is entrusted with its good name.
"It is for these reasons that I have made the difficult decision to forfeit my title as Heisman winner of 2005."
Last week, Yahoo reported that the Heisman Trust was looking into Bush in light of his award and the NCAA report on his time at USC. If the trust determined Bush received illegal benefits during the 2005 season, they were going to discuss stripping him of the award.
It is possible that the Trust gave Bush the "forfeit this award or we will strip it from you" message through a back channel. Or it is possible that Bush saw the writing on the wall, saw what the fight to keep the award would be like, and decided it was not worth it.
These latest headlines came on the heels of heavy sanctions on USC’s football program in the wake of an NCAA report that said Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo received benefits while at USC outside of NCAA regulations. A report sparked in part because Bush got in a several-year long battle over repayment to one of the guys named in the report who did not become Bush's agent. This summer Bush settled that case.
All of this had already been a lot of media attention and more was coming. A lot of questions. A lot of Internet sniping. Bush has moved on — he has a shiny Super Bowl ring now and millions from the NFL — he doesn’t want the distraction.
He could have said the Heisman was his, that he earned it on the field. He ran for 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 8.7 yards per carry, plus had 37 receptions in 2005. He put up monster numbers, and more so, he was dynamic on to the field. Maybe the most exciting college player of the last decade.
But sometimes it’s not worth the fight for the extra yard.
Give up the trophy and the controversy fades away in a couple days. He will still have the memories — he and all USC fans — of what happened in 2005. The NCAA can’t strip that with an edict. Reggie Bush’s legend at USC may be tarnished some, but it still remains. It will always remain.
Vince Young of Texas was the runner up for that award. Whether he accepts it or if the award remains vacant is yet undetermined.