Iraqi vet takes advantage of 2nd chance at Indiana

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If he wasn’t driving, Bush spent his time putting on a show at the gym.

King recalls many times Bush would come back from the six to 10-hour patrols in the desert heat and head straight for the weight room. And whenever the other guys discussed about what they’d buy when they got home, Bush’s conversations covered one topic _ college football.

It didn’t take the soldiers long to realize this wasn’t just talk.

“You’ve got a lot of guys that come in and tell you these stories,” King said. “Everybody says they’re a Troy Aikman or an Emmitt Smith and they couldn’t prove it. But Bush was different, he put the work in. He’d be in the gym and have a crowd around watching him. He was putting up a lot of weight and he was very devoted to it. We had some good friends over there that we lost along the way, and I think they pushed him even more.”

That didn’t guarantee Bush a roster spot at Indiana.

When the 24-year-old transfer student with the questionable academic resume returned from Iraq in November 2008, he had to convince Indiana coach Bill Lynch to give him a chance. A recommendation from his former coach at Homestead High School near Fort Wayne, Ind., was just what Bush needed.

Turns out, the Hoosiers wound up getting the better end of the deal.

Instead of dealing with some arrogant high school All-American, focused on big numbers and an NFL career, the Hoosiers wound up with the kind of scout team player coaches dream about.

Bush never complained, never questioned the coaches, never asked for special treatment when he sat out 2009 because of NCAA transfer rules. He played so hard in practice that he injured a teammate last season.

“I’d say he might bring more to us off the field than he does on it,” Lynch said. “Having seen his work ethic and the way he practiced in the fall. I don’t think you’d find too many 24-year-old guys who like being on the scout team. But, you know, he’s been through a lot tougher things than this.”

Bush cannot forget.

The most common question he gets is whether he shot anyone in Iraq. The answer: No.

A few former Indiana players have asked Bush for advice about entering Officers Candidate School. The redshirt sophomore didn’t hesitate to give his assessment. Bush still wears a metal wristband as a tribute to one buddy who was killed overseas, and he has a tattoo of a biblical verse on his arm as a reminder of how he survived.

He’s not afraid to talk about Iraq _ the good, the bad or the ugly _ and when he finally got a chance to play in the spring game this April, King drove up from Hopkinsville, Ky., to watch.

“I was so proud of him,” said King, a semipro football player. “I’ve been to Iraq three times, and I’ve never heard of anyone that got out and came back and played college football. So to see him in those colors, I was just really proud of him.”

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