NEW YORK – Reggie Bush left the competition far, far behind — as usual.
Southern California's incomparable junior tailback won the Heisman Trophy as college football's best player in a landslide Saturday night over Texas quarterback Vince Young and USC quarterback Matt Leinart, last year's winner.
Flashing uncanny acceleration and ability to change direction, Bush has conjured up memories of Gale Sayers, drawn comparisons to Marshall Faulk, Barry Sanders and Tony Dorsett, and is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft.
"Oh man, this is amazing," Bush said, with a row of former winners lining the stage behind him. "It's truly an honor to be elected to this fraternity. I've been in college for three years and it's the first time I've been invited into a fraternity."
Bush and Leinart will be the first Heisman winners to play for the same team in a college game when USC goes for a third straight national title against Texas in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4.
When Bush's name was announced, he bent over in his chair, and clasped his hands. When he reached the podium to give his acceptance speech, he started by letting out a huge sigh. He must have been the only one in doubt about the outcome.
Bush received 2,541 points to finish 933 points ahead of Young, with Leinart a distant third.
The 784 first-place votes received by Bush was the second-most in Heisman history, topped only by USC's O.J. Simpson, who had 855 in 1968. Bush was first in all six regions and appeared on 99 percent of the ballots, also a Heisman record.
This year's Heisman race appeared tight for much of the season, with Bush making a big statement in mid-October against Notre Dame. He ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns in South Bend, Ind., and provided the final push Leinart needed to score the winning TD in the closing seconds of a classic 34-31 victory.
But Bush was relatively quiet right after the Notre Dame game and Young seemed to have pulled ahead, with talk that two candidates from USC would cancel each other out.
That was until the night of Nov. 19, when Bush left Fresno State repeatedly grasping at air and onlookers grasping for superlatives to describe a performance that had to be seen to be truly appreciated.
He ran for 295 yards, racked up 513 all-purpose yards — the second-highest total in NCAA history — and USC escaped with a 50-42 victory.
If there was still any doubt Bush was best, he dispelled it against UCLA, running for 260 yards and two touchdowns in a 66-19 victory. Only the lopsided score kept Bush from doing even more damage.
As the Trojans completed another perfect regular season, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Bush would become the fifth USC tailback to win the Heisman, following Mike Garrett, Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen.
The 200-pounder from Spring Valley, Calif., just outside of San Diego, ran for 1,658 yards this season, a dizzying average of 8.9 yards per carry, while leading the nation in all-purpose yards with 217.9 per game.
USC now has produced seven Heisman winners, matching the record held by Notre Dame, and an unprecedented three in four years, starting with quarterback Carson Palmer in 2002.