Reggie Bush celebrates return of Heisman Trophy, calls out NCAA with defamation suit still pending: 'I never once cheated'

Flanked by his family and legal team, Reggie Bush celebrated the return of his Heisman Trophy Thursday during a news conference at the location where he earned it — the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The USC great and longtime NFL running back spoke with reporters for the first time since the Heisman Trust reinstated the 2005 award he earned while helping lead the Trojans to a Pac-10 championship and the national championship game. His Heisman Trophy was back by his side.

"I never believed in any of the lies that were being told about me, spread about me, things that were being said about me," Bush said. "I never believed it for a single day."

Bush and his lawyer Ben Crump vowed to continue with a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA, which vacated USC's 2004 national championship season and many of Bush's individual accomplishments, leading to the forfeiture of his Heisman Trophy in 2010. The NCAA determined that Bush was ineligible for games he played in because of impermissible benefits from marketing agents.

Former USC football player Reggie Bush poses with his attorneys, his family and his Heisman trophy at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Former USC football player Reggie Bush poses with his attorneys, his family and his Heisman trophy at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Thursday in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The college athletics landscape has changed drastically since, with athletes openly receiving compensation for the value they provide in the form of NIL deals.

The Heisman Trust returned the trophy to Bush on Wednesday in Jacksonville alongside a statement from president Michael Comerford, citing that changing landscape in its decision to do so.

"We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Bush back to the Heisman family in recognition of his collegiate accomplishments," Comerford said, via a statement. "We considered the enormous changes in college athletics over the last several years in deciding that now is the right time to reinstate the Trophy for Reggie. We are so happy to welcome him back."

The decision arrived years after Bush initially petitioned for the return of his trophy in 2021. In his 2021 statement, Bush called for action from Comerford and the NCAA while contending that "I won the Heisman trophy 'solely' due to my hard work and dedication on the football field."

In 2023, Bush filed a defamation suit against the NCAA in part over a 2021 statement by the organization that characterized his time at USC as a "pay-for-play" arrangement. Crump called for the NCAA on Thursday to join the Heisman Trust in clearing Bush's name.

"The Heisman Trust did the right thing," Crump told reporters. "They got on the right side of history. When will NCAA [get] on the right side of history?”

Bush repeatedly said on Thursday that he earned his college accolades and didn't cheat.

"You can't get to this or a national championship by cheating," Bush said while pointing to his Heisman Trophy.

He posed with the trophy for photos with his three young children.

"Today is the first time they saw the Heisman Trophy," he said. "The first thing they said is 'dang, it's big.'"

He then reiterated that his Heisman Trophy and his accomplishments were all earned.

"I never once cheated this game," Bush said. "Ever."

The NCAA has not publicly addressed the reinstatement of Bush's Heisman Trophy.