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Miami Dolphins’ Reggie Bush a role-model player

Club-hopping A-listers are notorious for pushing to the front of most any South Beach line.

Reggie Bush, meanwhile, spends his downtime pushing a blocking sled.

A younger Bush built a gossip-page reputation as a socialite and playboy. But these days, you’re more likely to find him at a movie theater than Cameo.

And while the salacious details of past heartbreak were fodder for reality television, his current love life is far more discrete.

In short, Bush is the opposite of everything a self-respecting Miami-based celebrity should be: He’s polite, modest and humble.

Or put another way, Bush is the perfect poster-boy for Joe Philbin’s Dolphins. In a largely anonymous locker room, Bush is the anti-diva.

“I’ve never thought about being the star,” the now-27-year-old running back said. “The guys who are with me, who’ve played with me, or have seen me on a daily basis, know that I work hard.”

Added Elliott Stares, a Miami-based sports and entertainment publicist: “Reggie Bush is considered one of the most mature athletes, on and off the field. He wants his reputation to be developed around his game, not how he is seen or perceived.”

At the dawn of a new Dolphins season, Bush has a new role – team leader – and a new goal. The one-time gadget back wants to lead the league in rushing.

And with every tackle he breaks, Bush wants to crush the perception that he’s all sizzle, and no substance.

“Reggie’s always been a highly competitive guy, a highly loyal guy, and nothing’s changed,” said Joel Segal, the sports super-agent who represents Bush.

“You want him a bunker with you. He’s one of the toughest guys I know.”

Bush showed that toughness in 2011, his first year in Miami. Then-coach Tony Sparano believed what few others did: That Bush could handle the every-down pounding and run between the tackles.

Some career highs

Bush rewarded that faith by posting career-highs in carries (216) and yards (1,086). His 5.0 yards-per-rush average was best among NFL backs with at least 200 carries.

And now, as Bush heads into a contract year, playing with a rookie quarterback and untested receivers, this season could be his perfect storm.

He’s not only the Dolphins’ best offensive option. Bush might be their only dependable one.

“He’s got such good natural instincts as a runner,” Philbin said, “and he’s got some patience too.”

That patience came in handy when dealing with the sillier side of celebrity, a byproduct of his off-again, on-again, and (likely) off-for-good relationship with the Queen of Reality TV, Kim Kardashian.

Their star-crossed affair, which ended in 2010, was broadcast for the world to see on Kardashian’s popular show.

Bush, now two years removed from that fishbowl (and happily so), says he doesn’t regret that past association.

It’s an answer Bush, the Southern Cal star and second pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, gives in an otherwise drama-free career.

Bush was a two-time All-American at USC, an explosive, dynamic player who finished 10th in Division I-A history with 6,541 all-purpose yards – despite playing just three seasons.

He was the runaway pick for the 2005 Heisman Trophy, and led the Trojans to consecutive appearances in the national championship game.

But years later, the NCAA determined Bush had received improper benefits while a student-athlete. Signs were the Heisman Trust intended to strip Bush of the trophy, and so he willfully gave it up himself.

“I don’t regret anything,” Bush said of the ordeal. “I think everything happens for a reason. I always believed that God puts things in front of you and tests you to prepare you for something maybe worse to come.”

As a pro, nothing worse has come his way – unless you count falling short of the stratospheric expectations that greeted his arrival.

By all accounts, Bush has been a good, productive NFL tailback.

But Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout who’s now an analyst on NFL Network, had pegged Bush as a “transcendent” talent when evaluating the prospect for the Baltimore Ravens in 2006.

“I thought he was so dynamic and so explosive, that he had the capabilities of changing the game,” Jeremiah said. “Reggie’s had a very solid career, but to me, he’s a miss. He was the highest grade I’ve ever given personally given.”

His big issues

Regardless, Bush helped the Saints win the only Super Bowl title in team history in 2009, and scored 33 all-purpose touchdowns during his five years in New Orleans.

The knock on Bush was his durability, and for good reason. He missed a quarter of his games in a Saints uniform. Ultimately, New Orleans chose to trade him to Miami for next to nothing before the 2011 season.

He then signed a two-year, $10 million contract that ends after this following season, which means that he’s in a dreaded contract season – which is hard to square with the fact that he’s an undisputed team leader and star of the team.

During training camp, long after his teammates had called it quits for the day, Bush was often the last one on the field, running sprints or pushing a sled.

The dedication has not gone unnoticed. The Dolphins’ lobby, the ultimate window into the team’s soul, displays the jerseys of four active players: two offensive linemen, their starting middle linebacker, and Bush.

“Most people look at this as a pressure situation, but I don’t even think about it,” said Bush, who claims he could finish his career in Miami. “I don’t want to keep bouncing around from team to team. I’d like to have a home and stay there.

“Plus, I love the city of Miami.”

He’s just not necessary keen on its world-class nightlife. Bush is a restaurant guy, not a club rat. Industry insiders say he’s a regular at Bal Harbour’s Makoto, and often hits up Prime 112 after a Dolphins win.

Just don’t expect to see him popping bottles at LIV, at least during the season. Simply not his style. But that isn’t to say he’s become boring.

Over the summer, Bush took a 10-day tour through Europe, and hopped into a stunt plane while in Salzburg, Austria. Granted, he wasn’t the pilot – Red Bull Air Race World Champion Hannes Arch manned the controls – but the multiple G-forces felt the same regardless.

(Bush conveniently forgot to clear the flight with Philbin before he left. No harm done, though. He returned to earth in one piece.)

A new lady friend joined Bush on the cross-oceanic getaway, but not even his old friends, the tabloids, could find out her identity. During a recent sit-down with The Miami Herald, Bush was equally coy – saying only hers wasn’t a household name. That, he added, was by design.

“That’s what I love about her so much,” Bush said. “I don’t want to make her high profile.

“It’s a better speed for me,” he said. “She obviously helps with keeping my life calm, simplifying my life, and so it is really good for me, and it’s really calming to have somebody like that on my side.”

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