FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Given all the predraft hype on the heels of a brilliant career at USC, Saints running back Reggie Bush admits now that he thought things would have worked out differently. Like, a lot differently.

"It hasn't been everything that I would have liked it to have been," said Bush, the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. "I think in a perfect world, I would have wanted everything to happen much quicker. I kind of imagined that I'd have a couple Super Bowl rings by now and a couple Pro Bowls."

A couple of Pro Bowls?

How about a 1,000-yard season? Is that too much to ask of a blue-chip running back coming out of one of the top college programs in the country?

Evidently so.

With great expectations foisted upon the former Trojans star, Bush hardly has lived up to them. Injuries. Ineffectiveness. Disappointment. You name it, Bush has experienced it.

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You come into the league drafted that high, then you shouldn't still be waiting to produce your first 1,000-yard rushing season. Bush's career high: 581 yards in 2007. He is now only a part of the Saints' running back rotation, with most of his responsibility focused on the passing game. But even those numbers haven't been awe-inspiring; since catching a career-high 88 passes as a rookie, Bush has caught fewer passes each season thereafter.

"It's a tough league," he said. "This is a league of all-stars. It hasn't been all bad because I'm enjoying it. I'm having a great time. We're in the Super Bowl right now and that's something that we should be proud of, being the first Saints team to make it to the Super Bowl. As far as my own personal goals, I know they'll come because I've always been a firm believer that hard work pays off. It's just taken a little longer than I expected."

At least there has been a glimmer of hope. Flash back to the Saints' 45-14 divisional-round playoff win over the Cardinals, and there was the trademark speed and elusiveness the Saints had expected all along.

Bush scored on an 83-yard punt return and a breathtaking 46-yard run as the Saints overpowered the Cardinals to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

Credit good health and good karma for the performance.

"It's extremely satisfying to be injury free right now and just to be healthy," he said. "I'm excited and I couldn't be more happy with where I am physically right now. Now, I'm able to let it loose and not have to worry about injuries or anything like that."

Bush has made just as much news off the field as he has on it. There were the knee and ankle injuries. But mostly, there has been plenty of ink in the tabloids about his relationship with reality TV star Kim Kardashian. The latest rumor: that Bush would become engaged to Kardashian if the Saints win on Sunday.

Asked if there were any truth to the speculation, Bush replied: "No, no truth to that."

Needless to say, a transcendent performance against the Colts would do plenty to enhance Bush's sagging reputation. "I would say I haven't lived up to the expectations I set for myself, but I know that hard work pays off and it will come," he said.