A reunion for Smith and Bush

November 30th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: A reunion for Smith and Bush

By Daniel Brown

Mercury News

Before leaving the locker room Monday, Alex Smith said he planned on contacting his old buddy Reggie Bush. He hadn't figured out whether to call or text him with some preliminary trash talk.

``I need to start jabbing him a bit,'' Smith said.
Communication used to be easier: Smith could find Bush simply by looking across the huddle. They spent two seasons together at Helix High in La Mesa. This was before they both became Heisman Trophy finalists, before they were high draft picks and before they would step on the same NFL field.
Sunday, in their first professional showdown, Smith's 49ers visit Bush's New Orleans Saints.
Naturally, a few members of the Helix High faculty are planning a field trip. As the school's principal said Tuesday, in typical principal-ese: ``From a school standpoint, it's tremendous to see these young men doing well in what they chose to pursue.''
(The principal, Douglas D. Smith, also happens to be Alex's dad. Anyone caught rooting for the Saints risks detention.)
Smith and Bush were both Heisman finalists in 2004, the first time one high school produced two finalists.
Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in 2005; Bush, the Heisman Trophy winner in '05, was drafted No. 2 last April.
Although the two players get equal billing this weekend, that was hardly the case in high school. Bush was the local sensation, the most dazzling running back from San Diego since Marcus Allen.
Smith was the guy who handed him the ball.
``Alex was a very smart ballplayer and kept a steady hand on the team,'' said John Shacklett, who coached against the duo while at Morse High. ``But Reggie had an immediate impact. From the first time you saw him, you knew he was exceptional.''
Bush averaged 12 yards per carry during his career at Helix and scored 450 points. Smith didn't play in Bush's shadow; he played in his vapor trail. The future $50 million quarterback would sometimes throw only seven or eight passes a game, and play only the first half, because the Highlanders were already ahead by an obscene amount.
``Alex didn't have huge stats. He could have. He could throw the ball,'' Principal Smith said. ``But that wasn't the game plan, nor should it have been.''
Smith and Bush first teamed up when the quarterback was a junior and the running back was a sophomore. Over the next two years, the Highlanders went 24-1.
Ed Carberry represents the 1. He was the coach at Monte Vista when it ended Helix's 20-game win streak. ``I feel like the man who shot Liberty Valance,'' Carberry said Monday.
At the time, the Smith-Bush offense averaged 53 points, and Helix beat opponents by an average of 38 points and was the No. 1 Division II team in the state.
Before trying to take apart the machine, Carberry was handed an old tool. Lynn Cole, another coach, suggested a drill he had used years earlier in preparing for Allen. In it, the fastest players ran around the defense for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, with the defensive players instructed to keep their shoulders square while focusing on the angle of pursuit. That plan helped Carberry's crew limit Bush to 316 yards in 25 carries.
Wait a minute. 316 yards?
``He fumbled five times, and we recovered all five of them,'' Carberry said. (According to a newspaper account of the game, Bush fumbled four times.) ``We noticed that Reggie held the ball loose -- and still does.''
The glory from the shocker did not last long. Helix walloped Monte Vista in their next two meetings, with Smith doing most of the damage. The quarterback seemed to remember all the plays that had just missed the first time around, and this time exploited them. ``They played like they hated us since childbirth,'' Carberry recalled.
With all due respect to the Grossmont South League rivalry, the stakes will be a tad higher Sunday at the Superdome.
The 49ers (5-6) are coming off an agonizing 20-17 loss to St. Louis and trail by two games in the NFC West and by one game in the wild-card race.
New Orleans (7-4) leads the NFC South by one game over Carolina. The Saints are winning despite a relatively quiet rookie season by Bush, who has 331 yards in 109 carries. He has just one rushing touchdown and his longest run from scrimmage is 18 yards. As a receiver, Bush has averaged 6.7 yards on 64 catches. His punt-return clip is a mere 9.2 yards.
Perhaps facing his old backfield mate will perk him up a bit.
``They weren't super tight, but they respected each other,'' said Damon Chase, the Helix athletic director. ``Alex was kind of a big brother to Reggie.''
Chase was the team trainer during the Smith-Bush era. He would like to go to New Orleans this weekend but can't -- the Highlanders might be playing in the CIF state finals Monday. But, if Chase wants, he can always revisit the glory days. A Bush highlight DVD sells on the school's Web site for $20.
There is no Smith DVD for sale, although he does have a recurring supporting role.
``You can see Alex a few times early in Reggie's DVD,'' Chase said. ``He's in there handing off.''

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