Whenever he has driven down US-1 in Coral Gables, Gary Bush Sr. has always made it a point to pass right by the Mahoney and Pearson Residential buildings on the University of Miami campus.
It’s where he met his wife, Michele, more than 25 years ago.
“I’ve told our kids the story so many times they roll their eyes now,” laughs Bush, a 49-year-old science teacher at Miami Southridge High, who met his wife (now a 44-year-old assistant principal at Coconut Palm K-8 Academy in Homestead) at a fraternity party when she was a basketball player at UM and he was going to graduate school there.
“My fraternity had a sweetheart meeting, and it happened to be in Michele’s dorm. She saw me, begged me to marry her, and that was it.”
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Bush Sr. doesn’t have to drive by that building anymore to rekindle old memories. His 18-year-old son, Deon Bush, a 6-1, 190-pound freshman safety for the Hurricanes, is making new ones. Deon shares a dorm with fellow freshman and ACC Rookie of the Week Randy “Duke” Johnson on the floor just above where his mother used to stay. That has given Michele a reason to make a few visits to her old residence hall, DustBuster in hand.
“She called me on the phone the other day, ‘You need to come see this room. He’s got clothes on the floor,’ ” Bush said, holding back laughter. “I said, ‘Honey, these aren’t females. They’re college football players.’
“I told Deon after Saturday’s game, ‘You better do something real quick or people are just going to start calling you Duke’s roommate.’ ”
Deon, a high school All-American at Miami Columbus High, didn’t have as big an impact as Johnson did in last weekend’s season-opening victory at Boston College. But he didn’t do too badly.
Bush led all UM true freshmen with four tackles in just 30 defensive snaps and 12 more plays on special teams.
That was good enough to keep him in the mix for more playing time entering Saturday’s noon kickoff at 21st-ranked Kansas State (1-0).
“It was a great feeling, kind of like a dream come true to go out there and play with the ‘U’ on my chest and on my helmet,” said Bush, who grew up idolizing Sean Taylor — whose father, Pete, was Bush Sr.’s fraternity brother and close friend. “When I got to live it, it was just amazing.”
Cornerback Brandon McGee said Bush was so fired up “he was jumping around” and on one play “threw up the U” before the snap.
“I’m excited about Deon,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said Tuesday. “He did some good things, had a nice hit on the quarterback on a safety blitz. He did a really good job with his assignments. He’ll continue to grow. You’ll continue to see him get better and better. He’s very talented.”
Deon isn’t the only talented athlete in the family. His older brother, Gary Bush Jr., a 6-foot, 185-pound receiver and fourth-year junior, caught six passes for 43 yards and a touchdown in Purdue’s 48-6 victory over Eastern Kentucky on last Saturday.
Their 12-year-old sister, Nya, is a budding seventh-grade star on the AAU basketball circuit. And before Michele finished her basketball career at North Carolina Central, Bush Sr. was a running back and teammate of Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice at Mississippi Valley State.
Bush Sr. said his two boys — who also grew up playing basketball and running track — have been competing against one another since Deon was big enough to dribble a basketball.
“Deon hates losing. He wouldn’t let his brother leave the court until he beat him,” Bush Sr. said. “It never ends with them. This past Sunday, Deon was at our house on the phone arguing with [Gary Jr.] about who was better — Miami or Purdue.”
What the boys never have to fight over is support. Bush Sr. said their uncle, Vernon Bush, and cousin, Drew Bush, a personal trainer who has worked with dozens of Hurricanes through the years, have always been around to help. Drew worked with Deon in the offseason and is a big reason Deon tested well at UM. Deon put up 14 reps of 225 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds and finished first on the team in vertical leap at 37 1/2 inches.
The challenge for the Bush family now is finding a way to watch Deon and Gary Jr.’s games.
“Last Saturday, Purdue and Miami played at the same time, so we just put two TVs on top of each other here at home so we could watch both at the same time,” Bush Sr. said. “That wasn’t easy.”
This Saturday, when Purdue plays at Notre Dame, Bush Sr. will be in South Bend, Ind., to watch his 22-year-old son take on the Irish. His wife will stay at home and watch Deon and the Canes on TV. Next week, when UM plays its first game at home, both parents will be at Sun Life Stadium to cheer on Deon. The big road trip, though, comes Oct.6 when the whole family will head to Chicago. UM plays Notre Dame that night. But earlier that day, Purdue hosts Michigan about a 90-minute drive away. Bush Sr. said the family will attend both games in one day.
“You know how a lot of people want to go on vacations and stuff like that?” Bush Sr. said. “Our vacations are their games.”