For a man who has played in dozens of primetime games during his nine NFL seasons, it's fitting that Reggie Bush's first game with the San Francisco 49ers will come on "Monday Night Football."
The running back has been known to shine brightest on the week's biggest stage. When Bush was asked on Thursday what his favorite Monday night memory was, a couple of games instantly came to mind.
"My favorite Monday night moment…" said Bush, tracing through his archive of top plays before landing on one game in particular with the New Orleans Saints. "We were playing the Minnesota Vikings, and I had two punt returns for touchdowns."
The performance came during a Week 5 contest in 2008, Bush's third season as a pro. The Saints ultimately lost the game, 30-27, but it remains etched in the running back's memory all the same.
"I just remember the excitement of Monday night in New Orleans. It was a great atmosphere. To be able to return two punts for touchdowns and be a part of history for the Saints was pretty awesome."
Bush finished the game with five punt returns for 176 yards and the two touchdowns to go with his seven catches for 64 yards.
The coincidence was not lost on Bush as the 49ers will host the Vikings in Week 1.
It's yet to be announced who will be the starting punt returner in the game, but Bush will certainly be in the mix. Bruce Ellington, DeAndrew White and Jarryd Hayne are other candidates to be involved in the return game.
If Bush does indeed get a chance to return a punt, it will be his first since 2011 when he was with the Miami Dolphins. In his career, the talented playmaker has 98 punt returns for 772 yards and four touchdowns with an additional score in a 2009 playoff game.
Regardless of Bush's exact role for the 49ers, a first game in a new jersey is always a big moment.
"I'm excited," the veteran said. "It's a new team and a new atmosphere for me, but the goal is still the same. I feel like we have a great group of guys here, starting with the running backs and a lot of young, hungry guys to keep it exciting and enough veterans to keep us focused with the right leadership. It's going to be a tough test for sure. I'm glad we get to start at home."
Bush is no stranger to meaningful Monday night home games. In his first such game in 2006, the Saints reopened the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina.
New Orleans beat the Atlanta Falcons, 23-3, in front of a raucous Saints crowd. The game was one of the most memorable Monday night games of the past decade.
"I just remember the feeling, the chills that I got when we were running out of the tunnel – the loudness of the fans – excitement and energy in the stadium," Bush said. "And then being able to win against Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn and the Falcons, I think they were one of the best in the league at that point – that was huge."
The game was highlighted by a marquee play in Saints history. Following a three-and-out against the Falcons offense, Saints special teamer Steve Gleason blocked the ensuing punt that was recovered by Curtis DeLoatch for a New Orleans touchdown.
"I remember it like it was yesterday. The blocked punt," Bush paused. "It was one of those moments where you just got chills down your spine. I almost teared up a little bit, just because the city really deserved something like that."
Fast forward nine years and Bush will be part of another anticipated Monday night contest. Week 1 of the 2015 season marks the first such game at Levi's® Stadium.
In addition, the 49ers will unveil their black alternate uniforms for the first time.
Bush said it's now time for his team to deliver a memorable performance.
"It's always important to start the season off with a win. You want to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Obviously starting off at home, we want to dominate home field. Everything has to be as uncomfortable as possible for the opposing team."