The Houston Texans opted instead for defensive end Mario Williams, pulling one of the biggest shockers in recent history. They signed the North Carolina State standout to a six-year, $54 million contract, with $26.5 million guaranteed Friday night, hours before the start of the draft Saturday.
Though many thought the Heisman Trophy winning Bush would get the nod as the top pick, the Texans pulled a reverse of their own and went with defense.
"I think if people had just listened to what we had said, they would have seen that we were serious about Mario Williams," Texans general manager Charley Casserly said in Houston. "Once we brought him in here our statements never changed that we were seriously considering him for the first pick in the draft and I understand that people didn't believe it, but we always said it and we believed it."
Throughout the college football season, Bush dazzled with his with his electrifying moves and stunning speed at Southern California and seemed to be a shoo-in to become the first running back taken No. 1 since Ki-Jana Carter went to the Bengals in 1995.
But now, the Texans' move left the New Orleans Saints with an opportunity to take Bush as the No. 2 pick.
Bush has had more on his mind than the draft after questions were raised concerning who paid the rent for a home his parents lived in, and whether an agent was involved, which could violate NCAA rules. He's adamantly insisted there was no wrongdoing.
"I've got enough controversy going on in my life right now," Bush said Thursday, "but I'm sure it will all be worked out in a matter of weeks and that all the answers will be the right ones."
Bush's parents received $100,000 in cash from investors in a sports marketing company that hoped to sign the running back, an attorney for the investors said in a letter obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Attorney Brian Watkins told the newspaper on Friday that Bush's parents, LaMar and Denise Griffin, asked for the money partly to resolve financial problems. Watkins said the money included an initial payment of about $30,000 to help start up the New Era Sports and Entertainment agency.
Watkins said the money was disbursed throughout 2005 and was given on more than one occasion at the home of Lloyd Lake, an investor in the company and a documented gang member. Watkins described him as a longtime friend of the Heisman Trophy winner.
Watkins described the $100,000 in disbursements in a letter dated Feb. 13 in which he asked David Cornwell, the Bush family's attorney, if USC should be included in settlement discussions.
"We would not object to their (USC's) participation as we understand their wanting to be involved due to the fact this matter was ongoing during their Championship season of 2004 as well as the entire season of 2005, and any lawsuit filed might have an adverse effect on them," Watkins' letter said.
USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said he was unaware of the letter and declined comment.
The content of the letter was reported hours after the Texans signed Williams.
Williams, who has been described as a cross between Julius Peppers and Lawrence Taylor, saw his stock soar after his amazing performance at the NFL combine in February. The 6-foot-6 ½, 292-pound Williams ran the 40-yard dash in 4.73 seconds and had 35 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
He becomes the first defensive end taken No. 1 overall since Courtney Brown went to the Cleveland Browns in 2000, and the 12th defensive lineman to be picked at the top of the draft.
Even though the suspense is over for the top pick, there are still plenty of questions about what the other 31 teams will do. After New Orleans, Tennessee faced a hard choice between Texas quarterback Vince Young and Matt Leinart of USC.
Young led the Longhorns to the national championship with a terrific performance, passing for 267 yards, running for 200 more and scrambling 8 yards on fourth down with 19 seconds left for the winning touchdown in a 41-38 win.
The Titans are in need of a quarterback to replace the aging Steve McNair. But they are also interested in Leinart, who played for offensive coordinator Norm Chow at USC.
After his performance in the Rose Bowl, Young seemed poised to be the No. 1 pick. Then questions arose about whether he is well-suited to play in a pro-style offense.
"A lot of people have their own opinions and they aren't afraid to say them," Young said. "It's not for me to go ask the critics why or answer the critics. I go on the field and work out and for the coaches and they see what I can do, and that's what matters.
"Since the Rose Bowl, a lot of people are trying to find something negative about me and they can't."
Earlier this week, Watkins said Bush's parents didn't pay $54,000 in rent during the year they lived in a house owned by a sports marketing agency investor who wanted to represent the football star.
The money dispute began after Bush signed with another agent and marketing representative, ending any chance of a deal with New Era.
Bush's mother and stepfather had agreed to pay landlord Michael Michaels $4,500 in monthly rent when they moved into the Spring Valley house Michaels bought for $757,000 in March 2005. Michaels said the Griffins told him they eventually would pay him rent from Bush's earnings when he went pro.
Also Friday, agent David Caravantes, who is under investigation by the NFL Players Association for his role in the housing arrangement, said he has had nothing to do with the Southern California star.
Caravantes told The Associated Press he is unaware of the investigation, adding: "I have had no involvement with Reggie Bush. The truth will come out."
Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA, confirmed Friday that the probe of Caravantes has begun.
The NCAA is investigating whether the living arrangement violated rules prohibiting student-athletes and their families from receiving extra benefits from agents or their representatives.