Reggie Bush lost his battle to wear No. 5 in the NFL. Whether that will mean a drop in his marketability is yet to be seen. Two things that it will definitely mean: 1) His rookie cards with the No. 5 jersey he wore at the Rookie Photo Shoot will be different than the jersey he wears in the NFL, and 2) Defenders will be seeing the back of his No. 25 jersey instead.
The Heisman Trophy winner from USC is as close to a can't-miss prospect as you can find because he's as close to a Barry Sanders, can't-tackle running back as the college ranks have produced since. His speed and burst exceed whatever the 40 times say, and with his pass-catching and punt-returning abilities, the New Orleans Saints should have a multi-faceted threat on the field this fall.
"Speed and versatility, being able to play running back effectively," Bush said when asked about his greatest assets. "Forcing the defense to respect the run and giving the receivers chances to make plays.
"And then vice versa, doing the same thing at the receiver position - being able to stretch the field and be effective at that, to pose mismatches for defenses."
The Saints, of course, already have plenty of offensive weapons, with new quarterback Drew Brees, several quality wide receivers and starting tailback Deuce McAllister. How does Bush fit it?
"I'd spread me out wide, play me at running back and use me in the slot, a bunch of different ways," he said.
Given the hype and the high draft choice, you'd expect that Bush's response to the question of "what would you like to accomplish this year?" would be personal. But he replied with a team-oriented answer.
"Getting to the playoffs and helping the Saints win more games than last year," he said.
He also realizes that's a tall order for a team that was 3-13 last year.
"It's never impossible to win a Super Bowl, but that would be tough, that would be turning the program completely around, from rock bottom to the top," he said. "So I would say a good year would be to help my team get to the playoffs and win more games than last year."
Bush has already had an impact on trading cards. He's the hottest player among the rookies in the football-card market, and as more cards go live this summer, he'll be dominating the Tuff Stuff Top 10 list. His Playoff Prestige autographed Draft Picks insert card, numbered to 50, sells in the $500-$600 range. His SAGE HIT autographed cards numbered to 250 are selling in the $200 range. His Press Pass Power Picks autographs numbered to 150 are selling in the $300 range, and Press Pass SE Class of 2006 autographed insert (numbered to 100) is selling in the $300 range. And he has a SAGE Aspire School Pride insert card that contains one of his eye blacks with the 619 on it. Those go for $150.
Recently released were cards in Topps Draft Picks & Prospects and Fleer Ultra that aren't priced yet.
Bush isn't much of a collector; he never has been. "I collected some," he said.
But he does appreciate the value of being on a trading card. "I don't remember any of them I had, really, but to be put on a trading card is something that's special," he said. "It kind of lets you know you're officially in the NFL now."
He didn't collect autographs, either, but he's been a quick study, signing an exclusive autograph with GTSM, which manages all of his autographs on trading cards and at shows. Why did he sign an exclusive with GTSM? "It's plain and simple, they paid me the most money," he said.
Without the smile on his face that added a pleasant, no-nonsense context to that answer, it would appear he's a selfish person, but he really doesn't carry himself that way. He's taken his surprising fall from No. 1 to No. 2 in the draft in stride, and even looks at it as an opportunity to do some good for an area that can use a boost.
"I think it was in God's plan to have me in New Orleans," he said.
"Obviously, there's a lot that needs to be done there, and a lot of community service will be involved, but I can handle that."