When Jermon Bushrod was still finding his way at Towson University, his offensive line coach encouraged him to visualize success and then elevate his game to reach his potential.
Bushrod went on to become a four-year starter on the offensive line for the Tigers and he was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints in 2007.
The King George County native heeded that advice from the start of his pro career as he envisioned a decade-long run in the NFL.
That is more than twice the length of an average NFL career, but Bushrod is still standing entering his 11th year in the league.
He signed a second one-year contract with the Miami Dolphins in March.
Bushrod, 32, held his eighth annual Visualize and Rize golf tournament and youth football camp this past weekend, with the latter taking place at King George High School.
He said now that he’s surpassed the 10-year mark, his career is on a year-to-year basis as he prepares for life after the game.
“Miami only signed me for one year the last two years so whether I’m [content with that or not] that’s kind of the situation they’re putting me in and I understand it,” Bushrod said. “Once you get older you’ve got to go through the process to see if you can keep doing this.”
Bushrod started every game at right guard last season for the Dolphins, who earned an AFC Wild Card berth.
It was a shift in position for Bushrod, who was a tackle the previous nine years with the Saints and Chicago Bears.
But Bushrod knew if he wanted to continue playing he needed to move to the interior of the line. He lost his starting left tackle position to Charles Leno during his final season with the Bears in 2015.
“After I got released by Chicago, the best opportunity for me to start was to play right guard with the Dolphins, so it felt like a good situation and I definitely had to reinvent myself,” Bushrod said. “It was like learning a new position all over again, learning new techniques and new tendencies. It was good. We’re still going at it.”
Bushrod may be learning a new position, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his commitment to the community.
Proceeds from his golf tournament benefit a fund that provides scholarships to Fredericksburg-area students.
King George High football coach Jeff Smith said Bushrod’s camp is eagerly anticipated each year. This year, the staff ordered 340 T–shirts for campers.
“There are a lot of people who definitely look forward to it,” Smith said. “Whenever it goes online, within the hour, it’s usually sold out … It’s a huge, huge blessing because Jermon is the same old Jermon. He has not changed one bit since high school. He never forgets where he came from.”
Each year, Bushrod brings NFL friends with him to encourage the youngsters. Dolphins’ teammates Ja’Waun James and Andre Branch, among others made appearances at the camp on Saturday.
James said events like Bushrod’s are important because if the campers learn one thing that can help them in football or in life, it’s worth it.
He cited his experience as a ball boy with the Atlanta Falcons as an 11-year-old with helping him see how professionals carried themselves.
James said he didn’t give it a second thought when Bushrod requested his assistance. The fourth-year right tackle said Bushrod has been a mentor to his younger teammates on and off the field.
“He’s earned a lot of respect,” James said. “That’s why in one year he’s gotten guys to come up here to his camp. That’s because we’re bought in and we see what he believes in and we’re on the same page. You can really count on him. If he says he’s going to do something or be somewhere, you can count on Jermon being there and being there 100 percent. He’s got your back. I went to war with him for 16 games and I feel like I’ve known him for years.”
Bushrod isn’t sure how much longer his body can take the rigorous pounding of a full NFL season. He said the older he gets, the more he has to do to make sure his body is in shape to play. He admittedly doesn’t feel as good as he did six or seven years ago, “but I feel good enough to keep going.”
“Taking care of my body is just like a second job to me now,” Bushrod said. “Outside of football, it’s about trying to make sure I can play, that I feel up to par.”
Bushrod is also beginning to plan for retirement. He said he may live in Florida after he’s done playing, but he’ll maintain his ties to Virginia through his family, friends and community involvement.
He said immediately after he stops playing he plans to put his body and mind “through the ringer” to ensure that there is no long-term damage from playing a physically grueling sport.
“It’s a delicate situation, but I understand the risks playing this game,” Bushrod said. “So when I’m done, just like I’ve got a team of people that I use on a daily basis to make sure I’m feeling right to play, when I’m done playing, I have to do that with my doctors.”
Bushrod wants to be there for his wife, Jessica, 5-year-old son Jermon Jr. and 3-year-old daughter Jayla. He was unable to attend Jayla’s dance recital on Saturday because of his commitment to the camp. He briefly stepped away from the camp to watch part of her performance on his cellphone.
“That’s pretty much my life—my faith, my family, football and doing things like this camp,” Bushrod said. “This is what brings me happiness.”