Rafael Bush is a busy guy.
The former Williston-Elko High School football star has played on three NFL teams in the past four years, finally finding a home in the defensive backfield for the New Orleans Saints. A restricted free agent following last season, Bush had an offer sheet matched by the Saints in April, keeping him in New Orleans for at least the next two years. Since then, Bush has been involved in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp.
Before he heads to training camp on July 23, Bush is taking a little time to return to his hometown. He’s clearing out some time to give back.
Bush will hold a youth football camp – free of charge – at Williston-Elko High School on July 12.
“It’s free to all kids,” Bush said Wednesday in preparation for the camp that will open for registration at 8 a.m. for kids from the ages of 8-15 years old, before running from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. “It’s a big event. I’m excited to see how it turns out.”
Bush held a camp at Williston-Elko following his rookie season. He said that event, when he was a member of the Atlanta Falcons in the summer of 2011, was more spur of the moment. While it was a success, with approximately 100 kids coming out, Bush is optimistic this revival of the camp will be even better.
“It’s more thought out and planned out,” Bush said of the event that has already had lots of kids register to attend, while more can still sign up at www.campambushed.eventbrite.com. “I expect maybe double the turnout.”
The free camp will feature a football clinic and NFL panel discussion. The clinic will involve drills and what Bush described as “competition.”
“There will be some flag or two-hand touch. I may even get out and run around,” Bush said, before accentuating the primary goal of the camp. “We’re going to have fun.”
It should be very enjoyable for the campers, who will get more than the opportunity to spend time with a homegrown NFL player. Each camper will receive free lunch, T-shirts and gift bags that will include an autographed picture of Bush. That’s not to mention all of the free instruction by Bush, who will get some help in the form of a few of his former college teammates from South Carolina State.
“I understand the importance of having positive activities, and I’m excited to take the platform of the NFL and to be able to provide this for the youth of Williston,” Bush said. “I hope to do this annually.”
Bush nearly came full circle, almost rejoining the Falcons prior to holding the football camp. After nearly two seasons with New Orleans, Bush signed an offer sheet with Atlanta, the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2010. But the Saints didn’t want to let the Williston native go, especially not to an NFC South rival.
They retained Bush, matching the offer reportedly worth up to $4.5 million over two seasons. That’s no small commitment for a player who could be a reserve, but has made the most of regular playing time on Bourbon Street. Last season Bush appeared in 13 games with six starts. He was credited with 37 total tackles in 2013, along with a fumble recovery and five passes defended. He made three special teams stops and furthered his reputation as a hard hitter with big tackles on New England Patriots receiver Danny Amendola and Seattle Seahawks jack-of-all trades Percy Harvin, knocking them both out of games.
Bush was fined for his shot on Harvin but has the support of the Saints organization, including general manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. In spite of nearly leaving New Orleans, Bush said it’s all part of the game.
“It’s the business side of the game. Everybody understands that, and there’s no hard feelings,” Bush said. “I’m blessed to have two teams that wanted me.”
Firmly entrenched in New Orleans, Bush said he’s focused on doing all that he can – including practicing, training and studying film in the offseason – to help a team that he called a Super Bowl contender.
“I’m going to try to stay healthy, do more training and hit the ground running,” were Bush’s plans before training camp. “I’m comfortable, confident and more assertive. Hopefully we can make a run at the Super Bowl.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 15 years after graduating from Syracuse University.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: Rafael Bush’s Camp Ambushed
WHERE: Williston-Elko High School
WHEN: July 12, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (registration at 8 a.m.)
COST: No charge for campers between the ages of 8 and 15 years old
AP Photo/Michael Perez Philadelphia Eagles’ DeSean Jackson, right, cannot catch a pass in the end zone against New Orleans Saints’ Rafael Bush during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game.×
AP Photo/Matt Rourke Philadelphia Eagles’ Riley Cooper, right, is tackled by New Orleans Saints’ Rafael Bush during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game.×