To say this has been a “difficult” offseason for the Saints would be as big an understatement as saying T.O.’s career is a “little bit” over. (I mean c’mon, a Dr. Phil “Baby Mama” episode, Terrell??) This offseason has been one dog fart after another. And if it has affected you as a fan, you’ve got to know it has been a total suck-fest for the players. So imagine my delight when upon talking to Saints Pro Bowl offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod, I discovered that despite the suck, he and his teammates are more determined than ever to accomplish great things.
They are hungry for vengeance and redemption (and as you’ll soon discover, perhaps some charbroiled oysters from Drago’s, too.) But for Bushrod, redemption starts off the field by sticking to his pledge to give back. He’ll be hosting a golf tournament in his hometown of King George, Virginia next weekend. The second annual “Visualize & Rize” Charity Golf Tournament will raise scholarship money for students in his hometown. Below I ask him about his commitment to giving back through his golf tournament and football camps, plus how he’s been dealing with all the bounty drama and why he just can’t get enough of New Orleans people…and food!
Nola Chick: What got you into hosting these events?
Jermon Bushrod: For me it’s truthfully just a way to get kids and adults to come together for a good cause and just have an opportunity for myself to give back and to bring in some of my colleagues to do the same, just to show the kind of support the type of guys we have in the NFL are willing to give.
NC: I know that this is happening in a community that means a lot to you because it’s your home. Tell us a little bit about King George, what it meant to you growing up and why you’ve committed to giving back to this community now that you’re successful.
JB: King George is a small county. I guess you could say it’s kind of the country. It’s probably right in the middle of Richmond and Washington DC which are two pretty big cities. Honestly everybody’s kind of close there, you know. I have a lot of family that’s there but I also have a lot of friends that I’ve grown up with and a lot of people I know. If you go to King George county I probably know everybody. If I don’t know them, I probably know somebody that’s in their family.
My community hasn’t had too many opportunities especially for the kids to be around NFL players just to learn the game of football. My camp (which was started two years ago) was the first time King George has ever had anything like that so I’ve had a pretty good response to that as well. And as far as the golf thing, golf is such a great social event. For me to go and pair both of them together, it’s just a great weekend.
NC: So for people who might need that extra nudge to participate in this by either coming to the event or contributing financially, why is this worth their while?
JB: It’s all about giving back. You can be successful in life, but you’re nothing if you don’t give back. And giving back doesn’t mean monetary at all times. That’s great and all but services and products, that’s just as good. I just think it’s the perfect opportunity for companies and individuals to come together for a good cause.
NC: What response did you get from the community last year after you hosted the event?
JB: I’m going to start with the youth football camp. Starting off with my first year, we had probably planned it in about a month and we had about 130 kids that came out. And then the next year we pretty much doubled it. This year I made the camp completely free and we had 315 kids sign up in 36 hours so it’s been a good event for the kids. Some kids in certain situations don’t have the opportunity to go out to play sports so it’s actually like a great family atmosphere. Families come out, they set up tents and chairs just to watch their kids and other family members take part
NC: I know that your message to kids has been “visualize and rise.” How has that helped you in your own life?
JB: That whole “visualize and rize” thing came from my offensive line coach at Towson University. He would always tell me if you can’t literally daydream or picture yourself in certain situations doing certain things in life it will never happen. If an aspiring doctor can’t see himself operating on somebody or taking care of somebody, it will never happen. I try to pass that mindset on to kids. If you don’t see yourself getting good grades, if you don’t see yourself being all that you can be in life, you’re just going to have a hard time trying to get where you want to go. So I just try to pass on the message to see yourself doing great things. Do whatever you have to do to accomplish great things and if you come up a little short, it’s okay. You shoot for the stars and sometimes you might come up a little short, that’s just life.
NC: You’re a Super Bowl champ and a Pro Bowl champ. Obviously you’re tough on the field. Would you say you’re a softie at heart?
JB: I guess you kind of have to be. I’m the type of person who cares about people. I can put myself in other people’s situations. I feel for people in different situations so I don’t know if you can call me a softie at heart (chuckles) but I definitely have a big heart. I just like to put smiles on people’s faces.
NC: This offseason has obviously been filled with all sorts of drama and turmoil. Do you feel like it’s making you and your team stronger?
JB: Honestly we really have no choice but to come together and to keep our eyes on the prize. I get asked “How are you guys going to do this year” three, four, maybe ten times a day depending on where I am and I tell them the same thing. We can only go up. We take the situation for what it is, come together, fight a little harder, prepare a little more and at the end of the day, let’s try to do something unheard of.
NC: Do you think the idea of playing the Super Bowl in the Superdome gives you more motivation?
JB: Oh my, yes! Especially last year judging off our home record. We were pretty dominant last year at home so we always want to strive to play in that last game come February but for it to be in New Orleans? It would probably shut the city down. So yeah, it’s a motivation but our true motivation is always to play in that last game and win that last game.
NC: What does it mean for you to be apart of Drew Brees’ breaking Dan Marino’s passing record, especially the way it went down.
JB: That moment was surreal. I’m not gonna lie. The way that it came, it was sort of like, it was like a movie. That’s the kind of thing you see in movies. I think Drew needed 65 yards, we had 80 yards to go. He had no clue but we just methodically went down the field. We tried to hold up front for a few seconds, the receivers tried to get open and Drew did his best to get these guys the ball. The whole situation was unreal and the fact that he threw it to a great addition in Darren Sproles and honestly one of his great friends from San Diego, it was just like a dream come true. Not just for Drew, but for the whole organization.
NC: You know from playing in front of that hometown crowd that we Saints fans are insane. We love you guys. What message do you have to the Who Dat nation about the impact the fans have on you.
JB: The fans keep us going. We feed off the fans because we know they have such a high passion for the New Orleans Saints. It’s not just a sports team that they love. It’s apart of their lives. The fans needed the Saints during the turmoil we’ve had down here. Through the oil spill, through Katrina. That hurt lives. The fact that they can lean on us, we’re gonna need to lean on them a little this year. We need their support at all times. With our coach not being here, with some of our players not being here, we’re gonna need their support through thick and thin because every year’s not perfect. So just continue to give us that love and support that we’ve always needed and always wanted.
NC: Do you think the dangers of football are being overblown or do you think it’s a genuine concern that people have?
JB: I don’t think it’s being overblown. The sport is brutal on your body. Not just your body but on your mind obviously with the whole concussion thing. But that just goes to show there are certain areas we have to continue to get better at. We have to continue as an organization, as a league, to pay attention to more things. And that’s all we can do going forward. Whatever news, whatever things we find out, we have to try to protect our players and we all have to work as one.
NC: What would you say has become your guilty New Orleans pleasure food wise since you’ve been there?
JB: Oh man…wow…there’s so much. I’ve eaten at so many different place here it’s unheard of. I love K-Pauls! It’s one of my favorite places to go to here. Emeril’s is always good. I love Drago’s…those charbroiled oysters….woo! The Acme Oyster House…there’s just so much culture down here and that’s the thing that people who aren’t from here love. As soon as I have friends or family that come down, they want to eat at this place or that place, they want me to take them to the quarter when it’s not hot out. When it gets hot, I stay in the house. unless I’m practicing. But when the weather’s good I like to hit the quarter a little bit or hit a brunch just to show them the whole culture in this city. It’s like no other.
You’re damn right, JB. You’re damn right.
For more on the Visualize and Rize Football Camp and Jermon Bushrod’s 2012 Golf Tournament, head to Jermon Bushrod’s official website