Devin Bush said he never got into coaching for his son, Devin Jr. He got into it seven years ago for himself.
“Once you get done playing and don’t have the competition, the crowd and camaraderie, you want it, you miss it,” the 42-year-old former national championship-winning safety at Florida State and Super Bowl winner with the St. Louis Rams said earlier this week.
“I told Devin I didn’t care if he played football or not. This game is too tough, too demanding to play for someone else.”
Growing up in Opa-Locka helped put the tough in Bush. So did his father, Samuel, a construction foreman who used to make the eldest of three boys ride bike to football practice as a kid and made him cut lawns and cleanup yards to pay his football registration fees.
But Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl, it was hard for Bush not to get a little emotional. Tears flowed freely. Flanagan’s football team, led by his son, the team’s star middle linebacker, won its first state championship, holding off Kissimmee Osceola 26-7 in front of 4,550 fans at the Citrus Bowl.
“It doesn’t even feel real yet,” Bush Sr. said after he held Devin Jr. and the two cried at midfield. “I’m so proud of these boys. I love them. Not many people get to share this or have this experience with their son. I’m going to savor every moment of it. I’m glad he brought me along for the ride.”
Devin Jr., a 6-foot, 230-pound four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, lists Florida State, Auburn and Michigan as his college choices.
The rumor all season has been his father is going to follow him to college and find a spot as an assistant coach. But Devin Sr., who was named Flanagan’s coach three years ago after serving as defensive coordinator for a season, said no one has approached him with any college job offers yet. So, he’s planning to stay at Flanagan until otherwise approached.
Nothing, though, has made Bush prouder over the past three years than how much his son, the last of three children, has grown. With two older sisters who are college athletes at UCF and FSU, he has fought off the comparisons to his father and the criticism that has come with it.
“It’s amazing that Devin has a lot of the characteristics and mannerisms I have,” Bush Sr. said. “He’s never seen me play. I sit back and see him do it, and it amazes me how DNA works.”
Like his Dad, Devin Jr. loves to make game-changing hits. While Bush Sr. calls the plays alongside co-defensive coordinator Stanford Samuels, Bush Jr. and Samuels’ son, Stanford III, a 6-2, 180-pound highly touted junior cornerback, manned one of the best defenses in the state this season.
Until they fell behind 7-0 in the first quarter Saturday night, the Falcons (12-2) hadn’t allowed a team to score a touchdown in the first half all season. Bush Sr. said winning with defense is something he learned at Florida State under coordinator Mickey Andrews. His first season as a starter in 1993, when he was a sophomore, the Seminoles won their first national title with a defense that featured fellow first-round picks Derrick Brooks, Derrick Alexander and Andre Wadsworth.
Brooks was on the Flanagan sideline Saturday night to cheer on his former FSU teammate. The two hugged and cried when it was over.
“We taught ourselves — because we didn’t want it to come down to a kick again against Miami — that we we’re going to be lights out defensively, be the meanest guys you’ve ever seen on defense,” Bush Sr. said of his time at FSU.
That’s essentially what Flanagan’s defense was all about this season — play lights out and carry the load.
Aside from his son and Samuels III, the Falcons boasted top-level college talent on defense across the board. Michigan commitments Devin Gil at linebacker (he led the team with 12 tackles Saturday) and Josh Metellus at safety (six tackles, one sack) formed the big three with Bush Jr. Colorado State-bound cornerback Rocco Marucci and Army commitment Jahvari Bourdeau at safety led a loaded secondary.
On Saturday night, Bush’s undersized but speedy defense did its job. It shut down a potent, high-octane Osceola running game that came in averaging 36.5 points and 386 yards rushing a game and allowed the right arm of quarterback Kayln Nelson and hands of Jahcuor Pearson to get them over the hump.
Samuels III put the exclamation point on the win with a 27-yard interception return. By then, the tears had already been flowing on the Flanagan sideline.
“I just told my Dad I loved him and that he’s the best coach ever,” Bush Jr. said. “He deserves it more than anybody else on this field right now. It’s a blessing man to play for your father and do things you only dreamed of doing.”