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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Sam Bush embraces role for Irish with team-first mentality

When he was just 12 years old, senior offensive lineman Sam Bush took a trip with his family from his home in Newport Beach, California, to Chicago, making the extra drive to see Notre Dame host the University of Southern California.

Bush grew up in southern California, where many members of his extended family attended USC. However, he was always a Notre Dame fan as a child and set his sights on playing for the Irish early on.

“There’s always been something special about this place for me,” Bush said. “Every time I saw the gold helmets running out of the tunnel as a kid or every time I got to see a picture of the dome, Touchdown Jesus, the Basilica or the Grotto, that’s how I felt.”

Sarah Olson | The Observer
Irish senior offensive lineman Sam Bush sings the Alma Mater after Notre Dame's 35-14 win over NC State on Oct. 28.e

Bush transferred high schools after his sophomore year, making the switch from Newport Harbor to Mater Dei, a football powerhouse in Santa Ana, California. He knew he wanted to play Notre Dame football and was drawn to the national exposure that came with playing at Mater Dei.

Bush looked at Princeton, Yale and Cal-Berkeley after being told he wasn’t going to be able to play for the Irish. A mere 10 hours before committing to play for Princeton, he received the call that he had been waiting for for more than 10 years.

“I had talked to Notre Dame early in my senior season, and they told me that they weren’t going to have a scholarship spot available for me,” Bush said. “I had gone on thinking that Notre Dame was off the table. That night I got a call from Coach [Mike] Denbrock, who is a former offensive coordinator. He told me they had a preferred walk-on spot for me, and that was it.”

Bush noted his spot on the Irish roster is truly a dream com true.

“[Having a spot on the team] is the greatest honor I could ever hope to experience,” he said. “Growing up, I was the kid who told people that I was going to go play football at Notre Dame. [It is an honor] to be able to fulfill that dream and goal of mine. I get to wake up every day at the best university in the world. When I talk about it I get goosebumps because this place is a part of me and I have a part of this place. I’m able to take it wherever I go.”

Despite the rivalry between the two schools, Bush said he respects his family members that attended USC.

“Regardless of what schools we go to or what the rivalry entails, I’m so proud that they got to go an academic institution like the University of Southern California,” Bush said.

This year’s game against USC on Oct. 21 was particularly special for Bush because he saw his first playing time after four years of starting on the scout team. Fifteen members of Bush’s family were present at the game.

“I’m not the kind of guy who is looking for the accolades,” Bush said. “I’m not bitter about never having seen the field. After four years, I saw my first playing time against USC with 15 members of my family present. I’ll never forget the four plays that I was in. Right after the game I ran over to the players’ parents section and ran into the stands and buried my head in my mom’s shoulders. It was the most unbelievable experience of my life, and it’s something that I’m never going to forget.”

In addition to his role as a member of the scouting team, Bush was given a special task by head coach Brian Kelly in the offseason this past year. Before this season, the locker room was organized according to position groups. In his one-on-one meeting with Kelly last year, Bush suggested intermingling the locker room by putting members of the team from different positions near each other.

“[We wanted to] just get the whole dynamic and chemistry of this team rolling and put guys together who wouldn’t normally be together on a daily basis,” Bush said. “I can say from where I’m sitting in the locker room now, it’s really made all the difference. [Kelly] gave me that task, and it means the world to me. I’m honored to have helped out in any way, shape or form that I can. It was more so just along the lines of putting all of our team together and really making us brothers.”

Bush said he embraces opportunities like these to help his team in ways off the field. He has developed an important role on the team over his four-year career.

“Being able to find my own niche on this team is incredible,” Bush said. “Personally, my goal every day is to go out there and help my team get better in whatever way that is going to be and whatever form or shape that takes. Whatever Coach Kelly or any of the other coaches ask me to do, I’m going to do to help my team get better. As a team, we’re going to put our heads down and work until there’s no work left to do. And then we’ll pick our heads up and see where we’re at.”