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ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Reggie Bush has found a groove, on and off the field.
He is fitting in perfectly with his third NFL team, the Detroit Lions, who use him as a dual-threat running back to complement All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson.
Bush said he's living a dream as a football player, facing defenses that aren't designed to stop just him.
He also appears to be happy away from the game, enjoying life as a first-time father while living in the Motor City with his fiance, Lilit Avagyan, and their daughter, Briseis, who will be 5 months old Sunday.
"I love being a dad," he said, almost breathlessly. "I love going home and seeing my little girl and the innocent smile on her face."
And he likes being in public without having paparazzi in his face as he did when he was dating Kim Kardashian.
"That feels good, too," Bush said with a grin.
The Lions (3-1) have been good this year, sharing first place in the NFC North with Chicago entering their game Sunday at Green Bay (1-2), in large part because Bush is in their backfield.
The franchise, desperate for success after flopping to a 4-12 finish last season, made signing Bush its top priority in the offseason because it realized Jahvid Best's career — with the Lions, at least — was over because of concussions.
The Lions needed Bush, and he needed them. He signed a $16 million, four-year contract in March as a free agent.
So far, the team's investment in the 28-year-old, eight-year veteran has paid off.
Bush ranks second in the NFL with an average of 144.3 yards from scrimmage, trailing only Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy. He is running between the tackles with power and to the outside with speed, gaining 5-plus yards a carry to put him on pace to rush for 1,000 yards for the second time in his career — even though he missed the win over Washington with a knee injury.
With an ability to carry the football or catch it in the flat or as a dump-off option, Bush has also opened up passing lanes for Johnson, who has caught four touchdown passes a year after scoring just five times.
Johnson, in turn, pulls players out of the box to give Bush room to run through perhaps the biggest holes of his career.
"A lot of it has to do with scheme and the fact that 81 is out there," Bush said, referring to Johnson's jersey number. "It makes life a lot easier."
Bush seemed to have it made coming out of college, getting drafted No. 2 overall in 2006 by New Orleans after helping USC win two national titles and winning a Heisman Trophy.
He had personal and team success as a rookie, scoring nine times on the ground, through the air and on a punt return to help the Saints advance to the NFC championship game for the first time in franchise history.
After that, though, Bush's career was stunted by injuries. His reputation took a hit because the Trojans were stripped of their 2004 title, and the Heisman Trust wanted his trophy back because the NCAA determined he got extra benefits in college. And everywhere Bush went for years, cameras followed him because he was in an on- and off-again relationship with Kardashian, a reality TV star.
New Orleans traded him in 2011 to Miami, who made him a featured running back. He gained more than 2,000 yards rushing, nearly 600 yards receiving and scored 15 times over two seasons with the Dolphins.
Detroit did its due diligence when evaluating whether Bush would be worth going after, and got nothing but good reports. When he joined the Lions for offseason training, teammates and coaches couldn't brag enough about him as a person.
"You hear a lot of the TMZ and the Heisman stuff and all that different stuff, but he's the right kind of guy," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said last month. "He's humble. He's a hard worker. We're just really happy to have him and his personality fits in well with this team."
Bush has deflected credit for his performances this season to Johnson for creating space on the field, and to the offensive line for opening holes for him. But guard Rob Sims said his new teammate deserves to be praised for his production.
"You can go back to some of those runs and we got him to the safety, but the safety was right in the hole and he made him miss and went for 15 yards," Sims said. "Sometimes, we miss and he makes it look like we got a good block. It's a good marriage."
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