- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, IND. (AP) - Kevin Bush doesn’t sweat the little stuff any more.

He’ll repeat every drill and line up anywhere the Indiana coaches tell him to go. He won’t count the minutes untll the end of practice or the sweltering 90-degree days. The 25-year-old defensive end actually calls two-a-days pure joy.

Crazy? Maybe, until you realize this is the easy life for Bush.

Here, in Bloomington, Ind., home is just a three-hour drive away, the desert is a distant memory and the days of dodging bullets and improvised explosive devices are over. The former Army infantryman has a new mission and that is playing football for the Hoosiers.

“When you’re fighting, you have a lot of time to sit and think about things and it matured me fast,” said Bush, who spent 14 months stationed in northern and central Iraq. “I try to approach everything, every day with every effort so I can say I left it on the field. I’m just thankful to be here.”

Bush should be.

His academic struggles cost him a scholarship at Toledo and sent him into a different kind of recruiting office back in the summer of 2006. There, without telling his parents and not needing their signatures, the young Bush joined the Army, knowing he would eventually land in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The lessons over those 3 1/2 years were hard. Some of Bush’s buddies died over there, others were wounded.

Bush said his dream of wearing cream-and-crimson helped him survive.

“My biggest fear was getting hurt to the point that I’d lose a limb because then I knew I couldn’t play,” he said. “But over there you did your time and you didn’t think about it.”

Yes, Bush had some close calls.

He remembers hearing the occasional pop-pop-pop of gun shots while working out in a gym. Or sometimes the shots came in the middle of the night. Then there was July 2008 when Bush and a truckload of soldiers were targeted by the enemy.

Bush was driving a mine-resistant vehicle on patrol that day when he made the mistake of pulling into the sand and right over one of the buried IEDs. The explosion damaged the truck and left one soldier with a head wound and concussion. Nobody else was injured, but it was the closest Bush ever got to being seriously hurt.

“You know, you’re bound to get blown up some time or other out there,” he says now.

His steely attitude won over his comrades, many of whom, former Army buddy Marcus King recalls, wanted only one guy _ Bush _ to drive on their patrols.

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