It is Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, at 5:30 AM; the Rams have just defeated the Seahawks in their home opener. While everyone is still sleeping and coming down off their emotional high from the day before, Frank Bush is back to the grind, sitting at his desk diligently searching for an excerpt to send out for his motivational email of the day.
Serving in his third year as the Rams linebackers coach, this has become second nature and part of the everyday routine that he fits in prior to his early morning workout. Bush began this quest of compiling uplifting quotes during his stint with the Houston Oilers in 1992 and would share a few of them with colleagues.
From there, the list has continued to grow. At each turn in his life and career, the inspirational emails with the “THK BIG” subject line, have followed. What started out as a list of seven has now multiplied into a thread of nearly 500 people who look forward Bush’s “THK BIG” quote of the day.
“It’s part of my routine,” Bush humbly stated. “It’s part of what gets me going for the day. I enjoy sending it. I do it Monday through Friday. It was never something that I was trying to spread out there, but it was originally just something that was for me. To me, you have to live it. You can’t say one thing and be something else. You can’t fake it.”
After winning two Super Bowl championships with the Denver Broncos, Bush joined the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff in 2004. By then, “THK BIG” became a true part of his lifestyle and was even promoted on his license plates.
“When I left Denver and moved to Arizona, in my mind one of the ways I was going to try to live it was I was going to put it on my car tag just to see,” Coach Bush shared. “The response has always been positive. People have never given me a negative response to the phrase or mentality of ‘think big.’ They kind of get it.”
IMPLEMENTING THE MINDSET
As a child, Bush sat around and dreamed about being in the National Football League. When he was six years old, he snuck off to football practices without his mother’s knowledge. His teammates would hold onto his helmet and pads until the next practice so his mother would not find out. It only took about two weeks for Bush’s mom, Betty Lou, to catch on to his act. Lucky for him, she let him play.
In addition to learning the fundamentals of the game, his high school football coach, Billy Henderson, instructed him on the fundamentals of life. It was Coach Henderson who taught him the “If you believe it, you can achieve it” mindset. Bush continuously embraces Henderson’s life lessons as they spill over into his life as an NFL coach.
Everything Bush learned from Coach Henderson continues to impact him and his players, but what is truly evident is the influence Bush has on the coaches around him.
One coach in particular that Bush has made an impression on is Rams Assistant Linebackers Coach Joe Bowden. The two have known each other for over 20 years. Bowden started off as one of Bush’s players and is currently entering his fourth season as his assistant coach. The relationship they share continues to grow and Bowden has acquired a lot of the knowledge about the game from Bush while embracing his positive approach on life.
“The professionalism that he brings to the table, how he goes about his day to day routine, as far as getting the players ready to play and how he teaches in the classroom,” Bowden said of his fellow coach and mentor, “I think those are the biggest things that I can take away from him.”
Coach Bush also serves as a mentor for the younger coaches trying to make a name for themselves in this industry as well. Notable examples include Assistant Offensive Line Coach Andy Dickerson and Offensive Assistant Kenan Smith who have clung tight to Bush’s optimistic mindset.
Since the kickoff of his NFL career, Smith has particularly admired Bush’s ability to empower others in their journey. He notes that the invaluable lessons learned from him continually help shape his identity as a coach in this league.
“I literally talk to him every day, and every day, he’s got something new and different for me – something new for me to try, something new for me to work on, something that he sees,” Smith shared. “For him, it’s more about how you affect people. It’s how can you influence people’s lives. That’s the reason why I got into coaching in the first place. I’m in it to make people think that I’m here to help you, make you a better player and a better man. I honestly think that’s why he’s in it.”
After serving a stint in the NFL for over 10 years, Dickerson has come into contact with many coaches around the league. However, his relationship with his mentor is what he coins ‘one of a kind.’ Dickerson has found himself a true friend in Bush and says that regardless of being on the opposite side of the ball, he still appreciates Bush’s willingness to lend a helping hand coupled with advice when it comes to, not only coaching, but his daily life as well.
“It boils down to your reputation,” Dickerson said about the best piece of advice he has received from Bush. “He’ll always say, ‘As long as they tell the truth about me, I’ll be good.’ To me, that goes back to no matter what happens in this business, people come, people go. That’s the nature of the business. Nobody likes it, but that’s what we all signed up for.
“But, as long as people tell the truth about how you are – how you function, how you work with players, how you are in the building – as long as they tell the truth about you, he always says, ‘I’ll be good.’ So, I try to use that in the same way.”
LIVING THE DREAM
Despite not being highly coveted out of high school and being discouraged to go play ball at a bigger university, Bush never succumbed to anything less than the “think big” mentality. Embracing this mindset, he took his talents to North Carolina State University. He used the dejection of not going to a bigger program as his prime motivation and determination to reach the next level. He was never out to prove anyone wrong; rather, it was more of the motivation from within, believing in himself and his abilities to be a standout football player.
Bush was a three-year starter at the linebacker position for N.C. State and went on to be a fifth-round selection of the Houston Oilers in the 1985 NFL Draft. He earned all-rookie honors in his first season before an injury in his sophomore campaign ended his career as a player.
He immediately embraced the idea of ‘what now?’
He stayed with the Oilers following his retirement as a player, joining the front office as a college scout (1987-92). Although he enjoyed his scouting duties, he knew that coaching would further fulfill his passion, giving him the opportunities to stay around the game he loves so dearly.
From there, he went on to coach with the Denver Broncos for nine seasons (1993-03) and then with the Arizona Cardinals (2004-06) before his stint with the Houston Texans in 2007. After four seasons with the Texans, the last two as the defensive coordinator, he joined the Titans organization from 2011-12, where he continued to coach linebackers before he found his home with the Rams in 2013.
“If you want something, you’ll do the things to try to attract those things,” Bush explained. “People always think I’m going to be living. I’m going to be living the dream. If you’re doing what you want to do or doing the things that take you to where you want to go, you’re actually living the dream. The dream is to get there.”
From the days of the young kid sneaking off to football practice with hopes of someday being in the NFL through his journey to now, Coach Bush has watched his dreams come to fruition. He has the privilege to live out his dreams as an NFL coach. His upbeat personality and “THK BIG” mindset has propelled him into something much bigger than himself.
“Optimism is just something I believe in,” Bush said. “I don’t know, right, wrong or indifferent, it’s just something I believe in. In my life, I see the glass as half full all the time. Fortunately, things have always worked out and to this day, I still stick to the mantra, ‘What you think about, you bring about.’”