NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush said on Tuesday he will forfeit the Heisman Trophy he won in 2005 while representing the University of Southern California (USC).
USC was slapped with severe penalties by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in June after reports that Bush had accepted money and other benefits from marketing agents while playing for the school.
The amateur player payments scandal also enveloped basketballer O.J. Mayo, who played a single season with USC and now plays for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.
"One of the greatest honors of my life was winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005," Bush said in a statement. "For me, it was a dream come true.
"But I know the Heisman is not mine alone ... my victory was made possible by the discipline and hard work of my team mates, the steady guidance of my coaches, the inspiration of the fans and the unconditional love of my family and friends."
Bush felt that any athlete fortunate enough to win the Heisman became part of a "family of sorts."
"The persistent media speculation regarding allegations dating back to my years at USC has been both painful and distracting. In no way should the storm around these allegations reflect in any way on the dignity of this award."
The Heisman Trophy is college football's highest individual honor.
USC, whose teams are nicknamed the Trojans, were banned from participating in NCAA football's lucrative post-season for two years, and were stripped of their 2004 national championship among 12 wins from the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
Officials estimate the punishment will cost the university millions of dollars.
(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Justin Palmer)