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Part Two: Bush Sees Change Between 90s Football and Modern Times

*This is part two of a three part series with Devin Bush Sr., head coach of Flanagan HS, member of the 1993 Florida State National Championship team and member of the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV Championship squad.

Over the past few months, many coaches and analysts alike have offered their take on the satellite camp issue. What makes Devin Bush’s perspective unique is that it comes from an individual that has experienced the realities of playing football on both the college and professional level.

In the early 1990s, Bush played safety for Florida State and was a starting safety for the 1993 National Championship winning team. Bush looks back on his time in Tallahassee with great pleasure.

bobby bowden

A lot has changed in college football since Florida State dominated under Bobby Bowden in the 1990s.

“I say that experience to me at that time was the greatest thing in the world,” Bush said. “To be able to play college football on television playing big time games, traveling to different places with your teammates and experiencing all that. The camaraderie, competing, and using football to see other places in other states and gaining all this experience and exposure… all the academic support and being a young kid, everything that we needed was right there. For me, it was an amazing experience.”

In the two decades that have passed since Bush played college football, the game has changed, both collegiately and professionally, in stark ways both on and off the field. Bush recognizes these changes and attributes the strongest advantage to come on account of the technology available to athletes nowadays.

“For one, the first thing is the TV exposure and how it effects these athletes,” Bush said. “You get a lot of second-generation athletes with a lot of techniques that are taught and better and being introduced, and these kids now learn more by imitation and have so much more opportunity to watch the college game and watch the pro game and watch even more teams play from around the country from when I was growing up. We had block schedules where you only see certain teams in the south or certain coaches.

“Now it’s unlimited where any channel you turn on, you can see all the teams and choose different players to try to learn from and imitate a lot of things that they see, and they learn different things about football, a lot of techniques. It has changed the athleticism of these athletes today. They are faster, stronger and can do a lot more things, a lot more dynamic things than was done before. [I’m] not saying it wasn’t totally done, but now you have more doing it instead of the isolated couple guys here and couple guys there. Now there are a lot more receivers that can jump up and grab the ball and catch the ball with one hand and then they catch it almost behind their backs.”

Development occurs early on with athletes in today’s age thanks to heavy accessibility to technology, Bush says. While that element of modern football is certainly influencing the game in a positive fashion, coach Bush sees a potential roadblock in the future if football continues to evolve and modify rules, much like has been done in recent years.

“Then when you look at the other side, when they try to make the game safer I think they hurt the game,” Bush said. “These kids on the defensive side, they are supposed to strike people. The game was built off being physical. I don’t like seeing when these guys are tackling and because of making incidental contact these guys are automatically ejected from the game. These kids worked hard to get into college football and are getting ejected from games, you can’t get that time back. You can’t get that game time or game experience back. Kicking these guys out of the game, that’s something I really don’t agree with. You can’t get that time back, and these people seem to be taking that for granted by saying throw them out of the game. That’s messed up.”

In short, altering the rules of how a defender is allowed to make contact with a ball carrier, or a quarterback, has an impact on how the game is played. When defensive players approach a tackle at half speed or follow through in an unnatural fashion to avoid a penalty, this leads to potential injuries that would not have occurred in the past according to Bush.

“You going to get defensive guys hurt when they don’t know what to do,” Bush said. “They don’t know whether to go full speed or pull off or move their body a certain way. I think what they need to do is teaching the proper technique of how to tackle and how to protect yourself out there. Then they can train together with these companies and get your speed back and teach a lot of kids how can we keep improving.”

The main spark plug in the progression of protective football technology and tracking injury rates could be the innovation of modern day technology. This allows for everyone to take a more informed approach to the game and the results are evident.

“With all this technology, the equipment just keeps improving with better the helmets and things like that,” Bush said. “It’s really improving.

“Now you see with the helmets they are wearing now, I think I would have been hitting even harder, and you can see the game evolves and these players really get a chance to experience the evolution of the game. That is the fun of the game and how much excitement it brings to both players and fans alike.”

Even with the progression of technology, though, it appears impossible to avoid injuries entirely in any physical sport, and football is no different.

“Of course injuries are a part of the game, but the worst injury is paralysis I think,” Bush said. “If a kid gets hurt and is paralyzed, that’s bad. Other injuries, they can happen just walking down the street or just playing basketball or racquetball and just doing things like that. It’s not that it’s a violent game, but it has protective gear. It’s a really good game and it think it’s a really safe game.”

Bush learned a lot about how good of a game and how safe it is starting in his collegiate days. This is where he began his journey into great success on the field.

Bush was a 1st round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 1993 NFL Draft. In the pros, Bush played eight years between the Falcons and the St. Louis Rams, racking up 320 tackles, seven interceptions and two touchdowns in his playing days.

Bush transitioned to the Rams at the start of the 1999 season, and it proved to be a fruitful move for the dynamic safety. In ’99, Bush tallied 35 tackles and snagged two picks, returning one for a touchdown.  Bush won Super Bowl XXXIV with the Rams in his first year with the team.

“Of course wearing the national championship and going to the pros and winning the Super Bowl,” Bush says of his fondest memories. “Those are two very significant things in my career. Ever since I was a little young play, starting to play at 75-pounds, running around and saying I wish I could do that, and then to have it actually happen… I mean how many people in the world can say they won a Super Bowl and a National Championship? That’s a really small list. I really cherish it.”

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