Cougfan at 15: The double-duty standout

MIKE BUSH is coming back to Pullman. No, the former two-star athlete in basketball and football at Washington State doesn't have any eligibility left, though Ken Bone and Mike Leach probably wish that he did.

Bush, 34, is returning to Pullman in the fall to take graduate courses in special education.

It will mark the return of one of the most unique Washington State athletes in the 15 years has been covering crimson.

Yes, there have been a handful of two-sport Cougs in that timeframe, including Steve Gleason and Collin Henderson in football and baseball, and Jeshua Anderson in football and track. But Bush's success in both football and hoops was truly head-turning.

Seventh in a series of feature stories (15 for 15) CF.C is running in the 15 days leading to its 15th anniversary on August 15.

Consider that in the span of one calendar year he was named all-Pac-10 honorable mention in both sports.

And when he graduated he ranked in the WSU top 10 for career receiving yards, and the top 20 for career scoring in hoops.

Bush joined Cougar football team as a junior in 2001 and proceeded to start 11 of 12 games and haul in 46 catches for 959 and 10 TDs. Before the Cougs faced Purdue in the Sun Bowl at the end of the season, Bush had some other business that needed tending.

"I had to play three basketball games prior to leaving and meeting the team up in Coeur d'Alene. Then we left for the Sun Bowl," he said Wednesday in an interview with "Those were Pac-10 games (basketball). The whole football team was at those games."

The Cougars -- in football, that is -- would go on to beat Purdue 33-27 on December 31 in El Paso, boosted by four field goals from kicker Drew Dunning. Bush hauled in one catch for 46 yards in his first taste of the postseason.

The Bush File

High School:

6-6, 200

Cougar Hoops Career:
  • 4 seasons (1998-99 thru 2001-02)
  • 1,052 career points, 456 rebs, 148 steals
  • Started 77 of 84 possible games
  • Honorable mention All-Pac-10 in 2000-01

    Cougar Football Career:
  • 2 seasons (2001-2002)
  • 95 catches, 1,658 yards, 16 TDs
  • Started 24 of 25 possible games
  • Honorable mention All-Pac-10 in 2001

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  • He spent the rest of the winter dropping nearly 11 points-per-game as a six-foot-six shooting guard for former WSU basketball coach Paul Graham. The previous year he'd averaged 15.9 a night.

    After the 2001-2002 campaign was over, his basketball eligibility was up, but his still had a year of football eligibility remaining.

    So polished were his receiving skills that many forget Bush had come to Pullman on a basketball scholarship. In 2000, he watched from the stands as the Cougs lost a lopsided Apple Cup in Martin Stadium. That was about all he could take. He wanted to get back on the gridiron.

    "When I was a freshman and sophomore I used to walk by Coach (Mike) Levenseller's office," he said. "They knew that I played in high school and it just came to a point where I was like ‘you know what? I want to go play football."

    After his breakout junior season in 2001, Bush, an outside receiver, helped WSU earn a trip to the Rose Bowl following the 2002 campaign. It was only his second year in the program, but he provided the perfect complement to fellow wideouts Jerome Riley and Devard Darling. That chemistry spread through the locker room as WSU marched toward its second-consecutive 10-win season.

    "I think we were truly a team," Bush said. "There were a lot of great players, but I think we truly came together as a team. There was no animosity in the locker room.

    "We had great veteran leaders."

    One of Bush's most memorable moments came in the second-to-last game of his Cougar career. In a scheduling quirk, the Cougs found themselves playing the final game of the regular season at UCLA in December. WSU was 9-2 and controlled its destiny. A victory would put the Cougs in the Rose Bowl.

    On the second play of the game, Henderson caught a bubble screen from Jason Gesser and then turned and fired downfield to Bush.


    He was wide open.

    "Those are the passes that are hardest to catch, because you have time to think to yourself that this kind of thing just doesn't happen," Bush said in this 2012 CF.C story commemorating the 10th anniversary of that game. "It seemed like the ball was in the air forever."

    The play covered 66 yards and the Cougs were soon to be ticketed for a January match up with Oklahoma.

    The road to those roses, Bush said, actually began two years earlier, on August 30, 2001, when the Cougars welcomed the Idaho Vandals to Martin Stadium in hopes of snapping a two-game losing streak to their Palouse cousins. Yes, WSU once lost two straight to their neighbors to the east. Bush had four catches for 97 yards in WSU's 36-7 win. The tone was set – and it stuck around for three full seasons in which the Cougs collectively tallied 30 wins.

    After graduating, Bush had a brief stint with the San Francisco 49ers and then spent some time in the Arena Football League before playing basketball in Luxembourg for a year. He also took a turn in the American Basketball Association. But it was clear where his pro aspirations were leading, so he returned to the Pacific Northwest.

    "I decided to get a real job," he said.

    Bush has spent the past several years working in special education at Kirkland Junior High, but that will now take a backseat as he pursues his graduate degree. He was also the wide receivers coach and passing coordinator at Bothell High School, regular talking with Levenseller about techniques and route running.

    The advice guided him well. He's gained a sterling reputation mentoring wide receivers at the Barton Football Academy, a youth training camp that's been the starting point for numerous NFL players, including quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jake Locker.

    Bush said he hopes he one day can coach at the college level.



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