Derick Bush before he was a senior at Salpointe Catholic in 2017 was not garnering the type of recruiting attention head coach Dennis Bene and the coaching staff thought he deserved.
“Coach Bene always called him a late bloomer,” former associate head coach Al Alexander said of Bush. “He received a lot of attention from I-AA schools and Division II schools. We always felt that he was a Division I player.”
Former Salpointe standout Chase Gallagher, who was an all-city selection as a senior safety in 2009, was the recruiting coordinator at Coastal Carolina when Bush was a senior.
Before that season, Gallagher made a symbolic scholarship offer to 5-star talent Bijan Robinson, when the running back was only a sophomore, to show that the Chanticleers would be bold in their pursuits. After some selling of Bush by Bene and Alexander, Gallagher bought into the cornerback’s potential and offered him a scholarship.
Gallagher knew all about the challenge of a player trying to make a name for himself after attending small-school Alderson Broaddus in Philippi, W.V. following his Salpointe career. He was awarded the school’s Male Co-Student-Athlete of the Year in 2014.
“I kind of took his word on a lot of stuff about Coastal Carolina and took a visit, loved the visit and decided to commit,” said Bush, who also had offers from Big Sky schools NAU and Weber State.
Bush was one of eight seniors who topped Salpointe’s tackling chart when the Lancers went 12-2 and lost to Scottsdale Saguaro in the 2017 Class 4A state title game at Arizona Stadium. He had two interceptions and also averaged 28.4 yards per kickoff return that season.
Alexander and the staff considered Bush a quiet undersized player through his junior season.
“Before the start of his senior year, during spring workouts, he fell in love with the weight room and also grew about 2 to 3 inches,” Alexander said. “He always had a great work ethic. We told (Gallagher) we had a kid that could play.
“They absolutely loved him.”
As a true freshman in 2018, Bush played in 10 games for the Chanticleers and started seven of them at cornerback.
Gallagher returned to Alderson Broaddus as the linebackers coach last season. Bush was hampered by injuries and started only three games with Gallagher gone. Gallagher is now the recruiting coordinator at Pitt.
Rather than contemplate transferring, Bush remained at Coastal Carolina, which is located at Conway, S.C., a short drive from Myrtle Beach. Arizona baseball fans will recall the Wildcats lost to the Chanticleers in the 2016 College World Series championship.
Bush indicated that he feels at home in Conway.
“It’s not too different here than being on the western part of the country,” Bush said. “I know it’s definitely something you have to get accustomed to because it’s a lot more difficult to breathe here because it’s a lot more humid, but it’s not too different than Arizona to me. I like it.”
Bush returned to Conway in late June after spending three to four months in Tucson because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He travels to his hometown three times a year — winter break, spring break and summer. He did not have a chance to return to Coastal Carolina after coming to Tucson for spring break in March because the outbreak of COVID-19 occurred at that time.
He remained active in Tucson working out with Lathan Ransom and Robinson and speed training with Cam Denson’s father Jerry Denson. Cam Denson is a former Lancer standout who went on to attend Arizona and NAU.
“I was out there running four times a week at 7 a.m., working on my speed,” Bush said. “I was able to work out up until the gyms closed in Tucson in April. From then on, I was working out of my garage. I was limited for workouts but I still had to get it in.
“The gyms were closed again at the beginning of July. Thankfully, I was able to come back here to Coastal Carolina and work out. I felt like I was ready for the season.”
The Chanticleers and the Sun Belt Conference held firm with their plans to play football this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell told Myrtle Beach Online two weeks ago that up to 14 players were absent from practices at any one time in order to isolate or quarantine.
“Every day you preach about being diligent with masks, because if somebody messes up you lose half your team,” Chadwell said. “So we spend every day just talking about doing those things right all the time.”
Bush felt safe and properly prepared heading into the season opener last Saturday at Kansas, where the Chanticleers won last year. According to media reports, four of his teammates who tested positive for COVID-19 did not make the trip to Lawrence, Kan.
“I thought Coach Chadwick did a really good job staying optimistic about the season,” Bush said. “He kept telling us that we were going to have a season. I felt confident it was going to happen.”
Kansas was originally scheduled to make a return trip from last year’s game to Coastal Carolina on Sept. 26, but the Chanticleers filled a non-conference void this season for the Jayhawks. The teams will play at Conway next season.
Bush’s performance in the Chanticleers’ late-night 38-23 win over Kansas — the game ended past midnight on the East coast — last week on FS1 was one that caught the attention of his large group of supporters in Tucson. His parents were set to attend the game in Lawrence but “when they bought their tickets last Tuesday, Kansas announced right after that no fans could attend the game, so they had to make the calls to cancel their airline tickets,” Bush said.
“My school is allowing up to 5,000 fans so my parents are planning on coming in November,” he added.
Bush had an interception and broke up two passes in his 11th career start and 22nd game of his career with Coastal Carolina. Ransom, a freshman at Ohio State, tweeted, “Stop playing with Derick Bush!” after Bush intercepted a tipped pass to end Kansas’ opening drive.
“He’s like my brother; he hyped me up too,” Bush said of Ransom. “My social media was blowing up with family and friends congratulating me and saying how proud they are of me. That was fun to see after the game.”
From the start of his varsity career as a sophomore at Salpointe in 2015, Bush has gone from about 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds to 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds now. He has proven to be talented enough to contend with Division I receivers after Coastal Carolina was the only school at that level to give him a chance.
The next opportunity for Bush to show his development and play under the watchful eye of his hometown followers is this Friday when Coastal Carolina hosts Campbell. The game, with a 4:30 p.m. kickoff, will be televised live on ESPN.
“I’m trying to be a leader,” he said. “I’m glad people in Tucson can watch me. Hopefully others will follow my lead.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.