Heroes come in various forms. Often times they're the man dressed in fire retardant gear, climbing eight stories on a ladder pulling children away from burning buildings.
Many times they're the soldier dressed in camo, packing weaponry while protecting fellow army men from death's door.
Sometimes a hero is the young teacher, who never gives up on a probable dropout and helps him go on to a college scholarship.
Then, occasionally, the hero comes dressed in a helmet and shoulderpads.
It was April 2006, just seven months removed from the worst natural disaster to strike U.S. soil. A city still reeling from the devastation of hundreds of casualties and millions of dollars in damages.
New Orleans was desperate for anything to hold on to; something to believe in. The NFL Draft had arrived, and an unexpected surprise had happened: the Houston Texans, selecting first overall, had decided to take defensive end Mario Williams.
This left the door open for the New Orleans Saints, second in the pecking order, to take the offensive weapon of their choice. They went with the obvious decision: Reggie Bush, running back from Southern Cal.
Not even Barack Obama promised as much "hope and change" as the selection of Bush did for the city of New Orleans. In a city where the lone other pro sports team was a transfer from the Carolinas, the long standing Saints hold a special place in the heart of Bayou country.
However, to this point in his still young career, Bush has proved anything but illustrious. He has a mere 1,940 yards rushing total in his four years in the league, averaging less than 500 yards rushing per season. He's been a bit injury prone, missing at least two games each season since his rookie year. He's also had some trouble holding on to the ball at times, fumbling eight times in his sophomore season back in 2007.
This season Bush has bounced back in a way. Realizing that the talented offensive players he's surrounded with have given him a chance to shine in short bursts, Bush has thrived without dragging the haunting millstone of expectations around his neck.
He's had his best yards per carry average of his career this season, and has tied his career record in offensive touchdowns with eight. He's also made some heady plays in the postseason as well as some explosive plays, ones expected out of him on a weekly basis.
But now that the Super Bowl is here, none of those stats matter. The costly fumbles, the brilliant cuts and dashes to the endzone, and the super model girlfriend are irrelevant. the Heisman Trophy, the National Championship ring, the initial signing bonus, none of those things matter.
It all comes down to one game.
Bush stated on media day when asked about if he had thought at all this week about his role with the Saints next year that he's "trying to not be distracted" by those things. Bush is focused on the next game, and for him, it happens to be the biggest game of his life.
Heroes rise to glory in stages like these. Heroes are made in the weekly practices, but they're defined by what they do in the big game. For all the lackluster games Bush has had as a member of the Saints, all those Sundays will be forgiven if he helps lead New Orleans to a title in the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
If Reggie Bush, a man many have called the most exciting player in college football history, can display that in the biggest game in sports, then the label of "potential bust" can be removed.
If Bush can provide the very hope to New Orleans that they had in him since the day he first held up that black and gold jersey, then maybe, just maybe he can finally quiet the naysayers.
You see, Sunday's game isn't just a Super Bowl. For the city of New Orleans, it's a possible step closer to restoring the soul of a city so needlessly crushed four and a half years ago. Albeit trivial in the big picture, it's a chance to not just recover, but thrive. Not just survive, but rise above.
Reggie Bush, here's your chance. A city depends on you. A city that truly wants and needs a hero.
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