METAIRIE, La. -- Reggie Bush was one of the most dynamic players in college football history at USC. And he wasn't too shabby as a rookie with the New Orleans Saints in 2006 -- with more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns, including the playoffs.
But Bush readily admitted Sunday that he thinks the Saints' newest dual-threat star, Alvin Kamara, is "much more advanced than I was as a rookie."
"[He is] extremely special. I think the world of him," said Bush, who celebrated the Saints' 31-26 wild-card playoff victory over the Carolina Panthers in the locker room along with several other alums from New Orleans' 2009 Super Bowl team. "He's a natural runner. He has the ability to be able to run between the tackles and understand how to run between the tackles with the offensive line and defensive line, and catching balls out of the backfield.
"I was extremely advanced at catching the ball out of the backfield. But I was still learning very much about how to run the ball in between the tackles at the NFL level. Because that adjustment period for me between college and the NFL was pretty extensive. So it took me a little time. Luckily I had guys like Deuce McAllister to help me. But I think what Kamara is doing now is special. I love watching him, I'm a fan. And I think he has tremendous upside."
Indeed, even Sean Payton has admitted that Kamara's ability to run between the tackles was a revelation for the Saints this summer. Otherwise, they never would have waited until the third round to trade up for him.
Kamara wound up leading the NFL with an average of 6.1 yards per carry (120 carries for 728 yards and eight rushing touchdowns). He also caught 81 passes for 826 yards and five receiving touchdowns. His 7.7 yards per offensive touch were the most in NFL history by a player with at least 200 touches. And that doesn't even count his 106-yard kickoff return touchdown in Week 17.
The one knock on Bush, meanwhile, was that he wasn't enough of a "north-south" runner, as he often ran sideways, looking for a home-run opportunity. Bush averaged just 3.6 yards per carry as a rookie (155 carries for 565 yards) to go with his impressive 88 catches for 742 yards in the regular season.
Bush then averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 2007 and 3.8 in 2008. He later developed much more success as a runner with both the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions, with 1,000-yard rushing seasons at both stops.
Bush, who turns 33 in March, confirmed that he plans to retire after he didn't catch on with a team this year.
"I don't think that's old. I can still play at a high level, very much, and I can still be extremely effective. But I'm also still a realist," said Bush, who has enjoyed the TV work he has been doing with the NFL Network.
Bush also confirmed that he plans to retire as a Saint -- even though he wound up spending more than half his career away from New Orleans (five seasons with the Saints, six combined with the Dolphins, Lions, San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills).
"Listen, I enjoyed my time here," Bush said. "I enjoyed everything about it, I loved everything about it. This place, to me, is extremely special because of just what it brings and what it has brought to my life. I've learned a lot from the people here, from the culture here. I love the food -- it's the best food in the world.
"And we were able to be the first in the history of the New Orleans Saints organization to win a Super Bowl. And that's something that will never be done again for this organization."
Bush said he thinks this current Saints team can win another one, though.
"A hundred percent," Bush said. "If that defense plays the way that it did [this past Sunday] against the Minnesota Vikings. If they can go in there, in their stadium, and create one or two turnovers, and give Drew Brees and this offense a chance to score more points, they're gonna be victorious, for sure."
Bush said it was great to be back in the Superdome, leading the pregame "WhoDat" chant while wearing a No. 91 Will Smith jersey to honor his late former teammate. But he joked that everybody kept advising him to just make sure he didn't trip while running through the tunnel onto the field.
"I guess they assumed that I don’t know how to run anymore," Bush said.