After months of speculation as to whether New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush would be asked to give back the 2005 Heisman Trophy, the former Southern Cal star made the decision himself Tuesday afternoon, saying he has decided "to forfeit my title as Heisman winner of 2005" in a statement released by the Saints.
The Heisman Trophy Trust denied a report last week saying the organization already had decided to take away the trophy because of Bush's implication in the NCAA's investigation of USC's football program.
"One of the greatest honors of my life was winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005. For me, it was a dream come true," Bush said in the statement.
"But I know that the Heisman is not mine alone. Far from it. I know that my victory was made possible by the discipline and hard work of my teammates, the steady guidance of my coaches, the inspiration of the fans, and the unconditional love of my family and friends. And I know that any young man fortunate enough to win the Heisman enters into a family of sorts. Each individual carries the legacy of the award and each one is entrusted with its good name.
It is for these reasons that I have made the difficult decision to forfeit my title as Heisman winner of 2005. 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, nor on any other institutions or individuals. Nor should it distract from outstanding performances and hard-earned achievements either in the past, present or future."
Bush, who helped the Saints win their first Super Bowl title in February, told new USC athletic director Pat Haden last month he was so sorry about his actions that he would give back the Heisman if he could. He vowed to stay on that course Tuesday.
"For the rest of my days, I will continue to strive to demonstrate through my actions and words that I was deserving of the confidence placed in me by the Heisman Trophy Trust.," Bush added in the statement. "I would like to begin in this effort by turning a negative situation into a positive one by working with the Trustees to establish an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid some of the mistakes that I made. I am determined to view this event as an opportunity to help others and to advance the values and mission of the Heisman Trophy Trust.
"I will forever appreciate the honor bestowed upon me as a winner of the Heisman. While this decision is heart-breaking, I find solace in knowing that the award was made possible by the support and love of so many. Those are gifts that can never be taken away."
Bush was at the center of an investigation that led to the school receiving NCAA sanctions that banned its football team from bowl games for this and next season and reduced its scholarships by 30. USC also forfeited 14 victories in which Bush played during the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and the school could lose its 2004 BCS national championship. Bush received cash and benefits from a sports marketer while at USC.
The school also removed all references to Bush from its sports complexes and promotional materials.
"It is my hope that this situation serves as a teachable moment to all involved, especially for the young athletes and university and high school administrators of tomorrow."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.