Former Towson left tackle and longtime NFL lineman Jermon Bushrod will be a member of the next class inducted into the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
While the details of Towson’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony are uncertain right now, Bushrod said he is honored to be in the conversation with the help of the coaches and other players who motivated and supported him.
“My time at Towson changed me. I got introduced to some great men, some great coaches, some great teammates and people who really just altered my mindset and really helped me out,” Bushrod said on Glenn Clark Radio July 6. “… The fact that they did decide to put me into the Towson Hall of Fame is a pretty cool honor. I’m definitely appreciative of it, and I’m appreciative of the support I’ve had over all these years.”
Bushrod, who played for the Tigers from 2002-2006, has remained available to the Towson community by welcoming recruits and having open conversations with players. He said that he never realized he could make it to the NFL until John Donatelli, his offensive line coach at Towson, changed his mind.
Bushrod wants to be able to help other young men in the same way.
“It’s an honor that I can continue to do that for some of these recruits that we have coming in, to show them that, ‘Hey, you know, you might not have gotten that opportunity from that big school that you wanted to be at your whole life. But you’re here and there are people that you will meet all the time that can change your life and can change your mindset and that you can draw inspiration and motivation from.’ It’s just a pretty cool honor just to be in this conversation,” Bushrod said.
Bushrod was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2007 and was a member of the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning team in 2010. He played 12 seasons in the league before retiring in 2019.
The 35-year-old native of King George, Va., lettered in football, basketball and baseball in high school, and he says his favorite sport back then was actually baseball, not football. He started playing baseball at the age of 4, and he attributes his good hand-eye coordination to the sport. Bushrod played every position except pitcher and shortstop.
When he decided to go to Towson to play football, he wasn’t sure how he would do, and his experiences during his first year tested him. He redshirted in 2002.
“I was a three-sport athlete in high school, but when I got to Towson, my first year was rough,” he said. “I remember just being just dog tired every single day. I threw up the first day that we had our conditioning drills. The first week of the season, I broke my foot. … My college career did not get off to the best start.”
Bushrod felt better about where he was in his college career when he broke into the starting lineup the following season. But even then, he said that he didn’t consider himself to be an NFL-caliber player.
With Donatelli’s help, Bushrod said that his outlook started to change. Donatelli served as a mentor and helped him improve on and off the field. Bushrod said a conversation with Donatelli gave him the mindset he needed to believe in himself and his ability to play in the NFL.
“I was under offensive line coach John Donatelli, and he helped me so much as a man off the field and on the field,” Bushrod said. “He literally just changed my mindset. He stopped me one time when I was up at Johnny Unitas Stadium and he told me, ‘There are scouts coming out here to look at these other players and they’re asking about who this left tackle is.’”
Even though he’s now retired, Bushrod said he and his family often talk about football. He recently had a conversation with them about whether he would choose to play this year given the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the nation.
Bushrod said he’s glad he isn’t a rookie or considering retirement going into this season, because he isn’t sure what he would have done.
“I just know I would hate to be a rookie. I would hate to be a young guy or somebody who’s on the bubble, right? Because there are a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity to get in here and get into the facilities and learn the playbook,” Bushrod said. “Everything’s going to be rushed. Everybody’s professionalism is going to be tested this coming season.”
Although the league is taking steps to ensure player safety amid the pandemic — including assessing the possibility of fanless games — there are still questions regarding the risk involved. Players have to decide whether they feel comfortable playing this year.
Bushrod said that no matter what he respects and understands those who might choose to sit out the season because of safety concerns. He added that the public should never criticize the athletes for doing what is best for them and their families.
“You’re a human first, and then you’re a professional athlete,” Bushrod said. “A lot of people look at athletes and sometimes they hold people up on the totem pole or put more pressure on them. It’s a tough situation but we’re humans first. We have feelings and we have families and we have things that we go through.”
For more from Bushrod, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Towson Athletics