TUSCON, Ariz. (ABC4 Sports) – Just one week before the season opener at Navy, BYU tight end Matt Bushman tore his Achilles tendon on a fluke play in practice.
“When I turned to look for the ball, running completely straight, something that I’ve done hundreds and thousands of times, it felt like a giant pop in my leg,” Bushman said. “It was like something kicked me super hard.”
Bushman’s season was over before it started. He was devastated. Bushman had already put the NFL on hold to return to BYU for his senior season, and now he’d have to spend the next six months rehabbing.
Then, just five days after having surgery, his daughter Andie was born.
“It was super stressful,” he said. “It was like, oh my gosh, did this really have to happen now? Mostly just feeling bad for my wife, because I’m not going to be able to be my full self trying to help at all times. But once our daughter came, I was able to focus so much on her instead of sulking and being like, what if I was out there with the guys.”
The guys were busy having one of the greatest seasons in BYU history, finishing 11-1 with a #11 national ranking. At times, it was tough for Bushman to watch. He wanted to be out playing there so badly.
“I had mixed emotions for sure,” said Bushman, who had never missed a game in his first three seasons. “I was super happy for the team and super happy for the success that everyone had. But it was definitely hard. Like, what if I was out there. What if Zach was throwing me some of these balls and seeing what I could do.”
Bushman thought about coming back to BYU again, but at age 25, it was time to test NFL. Bushman hopes to be back to 100 percent by BYU’s Pro Day in March, but if not, he has plenty of game tape. In three years at BYU, Bushman had 125 catches for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns. He was considered to be one of the top tight ends in the nation before his injury.
“I would hope that the tape would speak for itself and show this is the athlete that I am,” Bushman said. “It’s not ideal with the injury, but we’re going to make it work.”
Being away from the game for an entire season, Bushman had some time on his hands. He was inspired by NFL great JJ Watt to start a foundation that provides athletic equipment and opportunities to underprivileged kids.
“Whether it’s helping pay their admittance fees to get them on a team, or to help teams that don’t have the most resources with uniforms or equipment,” Bushman said. “We just want to be a resource to those people and give back.”
Watt retweeted Bushman’s foundation announcement and even donated to it himself.
“It’s so cool to have someone like him be willing to reach out and continue to inspire,” Bushman said.
To donate to Bushman’s foundation, go to mattbushmanfoundation.com