Tarnished Heisman: Did Reggie Bush Turn His Final College Season into a Six-Figure Job?

Tarnished Heisman: Did Reggie Bush Turn His Final College Season into a Six-Figure Job?

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by Don Yaeger, Jim Henry

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"In order that there will be no misunderstanding
regarding the eligibility of a candidate,
the recipient of the award must be a bona fide
student of an accredited university.
The recipient must be in compliance with the
bylaws defining an NCAA student."

— From the ballot for the Heisman Trophy

December 10, 2005

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"In order that there will be no misunderstanding
regarding the eligibility of a candidate,
the recipient of the award must be a bona fide
student of an accredited university.
The recipient must be in compliance with the
bylaws defining an NCAA student."

— From the ballot for the Heisman Trophy

December 10, 2005: Amid a roaring ovation and media crush, with his family standing proudly by his side, Reginald Alfred Bush is named the year's Heisman Trophy winner. With his honest demeanor, effervescent smile and, of course, stunning talent displayed on the fields of the University of Southern California, Reggie Bush is, on that celebratory night, the portrait of a great American sportsman, and the pinnacle of everything the NCAA espouses in its athletes.

What America didn't know about the acclaimed college star was that, in direct violation of NCAA policies, Bush and his family had allegedly taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts long before he ever laid his hands on the Heisman.

The rumors first surfaced one week before the 2006 NFL draft: allegations of improper benefits that transformed Bush's final year at USC into a financial windfall. The resulting scandal from such charges could mark one of the darkest chapters in college football history. Now, drawn together for the first time in Tarnished Heisman, the facts are laid bare.

Don Yaeger, a former Sports Illustrated investigative reporter who documented the Duke University lacrosse case in the shattering New York Times bestseller It's Not About the Truth, reveals the heated controversy behind Bush's high-flying rise before turning pro for the New Orleans Saints, going back to his first taste of fame, when Bush landed in the pages of Sports Illustrated and all eyes were watching to see what was next for the USC sophomore. What few eyes saw, however, were the ties between Bush and two San Diego men, cofounders of a fledgling sports agency, who claim to have paid Bush and his family in cash and gifts to ensure his endorsement — benefits including a vintage car, lavish trips, and an upscale home where Bush's family lived rent-free. Don Yaeger exposes the NCAA-prohibited activity in which Bush allegedly engaged, and also shows how USC and its coaching staff appeared to have turned a blind eye to the increasingly luxurious lifestyle of their star athlete and his family.

With the explosive information revealed in Tarnished Heisman, Bush stands to be ruled ineligible — a decision that could cost his alma mater the 2004 national championship title, force the forfeit of every game Bush played in after losing his eligibility, and potentially strip Reggie Bush of the shining prize of his college career: the Heisman Trophy.

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Thanking All the Wrong People

Reggie Bush stepped to the podium, flashing one of the most electric smiles in all of college sports. Past Heisman Trophy winners served as a historic and humble backdrop. An adoring audience stood and cheered as an elated yet poised Bush beamed with pride.

Bush, a junior running back from the University of Southern California, did what had never been done in the history of college football: He won the Heisman Trophy by beating out a teammate who had won the prestigious award the year before and was in the front row with him. It told the world that Bush was a young man whose future knew no limits.

The Nokia Theatre Times Square, a 2,100-person venue that had officially opened three months earlier, was wired as ESPN televised the 2005 Heisman Trophy presentation live to the country from New York City. An elegantly dressed, energized crowd had waited in anticipation for this exact moment during the sixty-minute broadcast.

Sitting next to each other in the second row near the center aisle were Bush's parents, Denise and LaMar Griffin; Bush's younger half-brother, Javon, was also in the audience. The group was dressed to the nines:

Denise in a spectacular long silk brocade jacket with a mandarin collar, offset by gold chandelier earrings that brushed her shoulders; LaMar and the fourteen-year-old Javon in stylish, striped suits with color-coordinated pocket silks.

The Heisman Trophy — a bronze statue that depicts a football player sidestepping and straight-arming his way downfield to a mythical touchdown — sat handsomely on a stand to Bush's right. The framed, lighted canvas portraits of past Heisman Trophy winners, including Bush's USC teammate Matt Leinart, would soon make room for Bush on its hallowed walls.

Chants of "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" reverberated off the theater walls moments after Bush climbed six quick steps onto the stage. One past Heisman winner could be heard saying "Welcome back" to Bush, a finalist for the award a year earlier in 2004, as he approached the wooden podium that featured a bronze plate on front for all to read: The Heisman Trophy Award.

As Bush began his acceptance speech, it became an instant ESPN Classic. By all accounts, it was one of the most well-received acceptance speeches in the history of the Heisman. Everyone in the room recognized this twenty-year-old man didn't have just football talent. Soon the appeal, the flash, and the dash that were good for him on the field were going to take their course off, and he would be a significant endorser of major products, rivaling the very best in the NFL, even as a rookie.

Dinner was being prepared three time zones away on the West Coast on December 10, 2005. Lloyd Lake was sitting in his television room with buddies at his home in Southern California, watching the Heisman Trophy presentation to his friend Reggie Bush. But it wasn't a sight that Lake enjoyed as he shifted uncomfortably on the couch and muttered to himself. Actually, he couldn't believe what he had seen and heard. About everything that Bush owned at that point, Lloyd Lake had helped pay for. And yet, as Bush was accepting college football's most prestigious award and getting ready to play in the most important game of his career — the national championship against Texas in twenty-five days — Lake realized that Bush had turned on him.

It had become obvious to Lake just days earlier that several promises he thought Reggie had made to him were suddenly not going to be honored. Lake, his family, and his business partner had provided Reggie Bush and his family with nearly $300,000 in benefi ts as Reggie was finishing up his career at USC. They did it all with the complete understanding that Reggie was going to be the face and part owner of a company they intended to build around him, a sports marketing firm called New Era Sports & Entertainment.

"We were happy for him, but I knew at that time it wasn't the same," said Lake, who cofounded New Era Sports along with San Diego businessman Michael Michaels in late 2004. "I knew everything was unraveling, but I still wanted to see Reggie win, him being from San Diego and all that. I never knew at the time that we would be in the position that we are right now. I thought anybody with common sense would say, 'I'm wrong, I did this, let me make it right,' and shake hands and go on our separate ways. But it didn't happen like that."

Michaels, meanwhile, also had to feel betrayed as Bush accepted the Heisman.

More than a year earlier, in October 2004, Lake and LaMar Griffin had approached Michaels, a friend of Lake's and a business development officer for the Sycuan Indian tribe, in the tribe's luxury suite in Qualcomm Stadium after a San Diego Chargers football game. It was suggested to Michaels that he, Lake, and Griffin could be partners in a sports and entertainment agency, along with the Sycuan tribe.

While Lake and Michaels had no history as agents before being with Reggie and starting New Era, the opportunity seemed too good to pass on. Since Michaels had money available, he became the financial cornerstone of the agency. Michaels immediately paid off $28,000 in debt for Bush's parents so they could concentrate on helping the fledging agency sprout wings and fly.

New Era wouldn't stay in the air for long.

Larry Pierce — who played high-school football with Bush at Helix High in La Mesa, California — intended to watch the Heisman presentation with Lake. Pierce considered Bush a good friend, and Bush had actually introduced Pierce to Lake at a USC football game months earlier. Pierce attended all but one of the Trojans' home games in 2005. Reggie had left Pierce's name on the team's pass list for recruits — even though Pierce had played college baseball for two years and had been recently hired at the San Diego Gas & Electric Company. Larry often mingled with Bush in the locker room following the games.

By hanging with Lake and Bush, Pierce quickly learned of the wide array of benefits that Lake had provided Reggie and his family. "I know there was money involved," Pierce said. "I never knew the total amounts. But I knew it was money given to help [him] out personally — things he needed personally. Like any struggling kid in college, you might need some money to go buy a couple things here and there."

As Lloyd Lake sat and watched, his blood pressure began to rise. He knew this was all a charade. Reggie Bush didn't meet the criterion on the Heisman ballot that reads any winner of the award "must be in compliance with the bylaws defi ning an NCAA student-athlete." In fact, Reggie was probably the highest-paid amateur in college football in 2005.


Believing it was the best way to protect his financial investment, Lloyd Lake, at the urging of his mother, Barbara Gunner, secretly taped with a digital recorder hidden in his front pocket more than two hours of conversations with LaMar Griffin and Reggie Bush over a two-week span beginning December 5, 2005.

Lake's two conversations with Griffin were face-to-face. The first was on December 5 before the Heisman presentation when Lake met Griffin in the parking lot at Morse High School, where Griffin is a security guard. Lake's former girlfriend, Maiesha Jones, accompanied Lake but remained inside Lake's Mercedes Benz as Lake and Griffi n talked outside the car.

The second conversation between Lake and Griffin followed the Heisman ceremony and was in the parking lot of a Rally's Hamburgers near Griffin's home in Spring Valley, California. There were also two telephone conversations recorded with Reggie. The conversations between Lake — at his home in El Cajon, California — and Bush took place after he returned from the Heisman ceremony in New York City. Agent David Caravantes also joined the second conversation near the end after being called by Lake. Lake could not recall the specific dates when he talked to Bush.

Excerpts of these transcripts appear throughout this book. In a select few instances, a clarification is provided in brackets to establish context.

In this first excerpt, Bush indicates that he intends to repay Lloyd.

Lloyd: Okay, let me ask you this. Why would I have to mention something I think you know? Get your dad on the phone right now if you want to. We can get it out in the open if you want. I'm not going to lie to you. I have no reason to lie to you, chief. I'm thinking you know your dad told me, "I told Reggie, you know. Reggie said thanks, and he appreciates the way you're looking out for us." Man, that's what he told me, so what am I supposed to do? Why am I supposed to tell you something I think you know? You know what I mean?

Reggie: I'll make sure you get all that back. I don't know how much it is, I am not going to say it, but I'll make sure you get it all back.

Lloyd: What about the time and the effort, Reg?

Reggie: What do you want me to do? You all got to [inaudible] get a decent chance just like all the other agents.

William J. Dockery, president of the Heisman Trophy Trust, stood to announce the recipient of the seventy-first Heisman Trophy. The ESPN cameras focused on the three candidates in the front row — Texas quarterback Vince Young was on the end seat near the center aisle, Reggie Bush was next to him, and Matt Leinart was to Bush's left. The trio, impeccably dressed in dark suits, sat expressionless, each with his hands clenched together as if in prayer. Denise and LaMar Griffin sat directly behind Young and Reggie, their eyes centered on the stage and Dockery.

Dockery finally said, "And now without further delay, the Heisman Trust is proud to announce the winner of the 2005 Heisman Memorial Trophy, the winner is...Reggie Bush, USC." Bush immediately lunged forward in his seat as the crowd exploded in celebration. A grinning Leinart leaned toward Bush and extended his right hand in congratulations; Young, reacting as if surprised by the announcement, stared straight ahead and graciously applauded.

In the second row, LaMar Griffin, holding a small, white towel in his left hand, leaned back in his chair as if to gain momentum, then stood and thrust his arms triumphantly skyward. To his right, a smiling Denise Griffin stood at the same time and clapped. As the revelry spread throughout the theater, the two turned away from each other when it came time to share in the moment.

LaMar looked left and shook the hand of Bob Leinart, Matt's father, and hugged him, while Denise reached out for Javon, who made his way up front. Following a hug from Leinart and handshake from Young, Reggie walked around and hugged LaMar first, then his mother. Denise could be heard saying, "Oh, my God, Oh, my God," as the two embraced. Reggie reached around and pulled Javon close to him as they shook hands.

A smiling Reggie then made his way to the stage to receive the most prestigious individual player honor in American college sports.

Darryl Hartzog, nicknamed "Bandit," was relaxing in his suite at the Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square early Saturday night. The Heisman Trophy presentation had just started, and Hartzog was excited for Bush and his family. A night earlier Hartzog had partied with Reggie, Denise and LaMar Griffin, Vince Young, and others — including veteran marketing agent Mike Ornstein, who, like Lake, was positioning himself to work for Bush when he declared for the NFL.

Hartzog said the group ate a late lunch at the ESPN Zone on Broadway and arrived in limousines that evening at the trendy 40/40 Club, owned by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and partner Juan Perez, in Manhattan. As could be expected, Bush was in great spirits as evening rolled into morning.

"Reggie and I were sitting there and he was asking about the music industry — what it takes to get in the music industry," Hartzog said. "He said he also wanted to open up a soul food restaurant in San Diego, and we talked business ideas concerning my clothing line. He was fine, kind of nonchalant. If he was nervous about the Heisman, you certainly couldn't tell."

Hartzog, thirty-four, first met Reggie in 1999 through a younger cousin who attended Helix High with Bush. Hartzog, in the music and designer business in San Diego, said he and Bush immediately connected. Their friendship quickly flourished, and Hartzog said Bush even went as far as to introduce him as his cousin. In turn, Hartzog helped Bush get a summer job at Boogaloo Records in Los Angeles before Bush's freshman season at USC.

When the Heisman Trophy Trust announced Bush as one of the three finalists for the Heisman on December 7, Hartzog knew he wanted to be in New York City that weekend to support Bush. Plus it was New York City, which has long been a mecca for music and the arts. One of the first things Hartzog did when he arrived in the city was take a horse-and-buggy ride around Central Park.

Lloyd Lake, who also is a good friend of Hartzog, was being taken for a ride, too. Lake could only wonder what was going on in New York City during the weekend of the Heisman presentation.

"When I really knew we were in trouble was when at the Heisman, when a friend of mine [Darryl Hartzog] was in the room with them," Lake said. "We go way back. Bandit was telling me how [Mike] Ornstein was running around and out there saying, 'Yeah, I do all of Reggie's marketing.' Reggie wasn't saying nothing. I knew then you are not going to let somebody make this presentation and represent you like this if you are really not considering or already locked in to doing it. So I was like, 'Okay.' At this point I am just trying to sit down with Reggie now to figure out what we're going to do about my time and my money. It's no big deal, but you are going to compensate me for my time. At this time, I am trying to sit down and talk with him. Now he's playing hard to get. This is when all the arguing starts.

"LaMar told me that Reggie said that when he goes to the NFL he's going to forget about you [friends] and not deal with you. LaMar was telling Reggie, be careful of the people you get around you. He was like, 'Oh, Dad, when I go to the NFL, I am going to leave all those people alone and get rid of them.' But you don't play with people like that. You don't get people to run around and do things for you and then you just abandon them because you go to the NFL."

Lloyd: I get with Reggie when he took money from other people, that's going to get ugly. Somebody doesn't get him, it's going to get ugly if they can prove it.

LaMar: It's hard to prove they gave cash, it's hard to prove. You can't prove cash. Somebody give somebody cash, because I can say right now you gave me something, no you didn't. I got cash, you can't prove nothing.

Lloyd: Just because it's cash, don't mean you can't prove it. I'll give you an example. Say when we bought the car, I gave you the $12,000, right, you go give it to Reggie when he bought his car and then look at my bank account right then. How would I know the $12,000 that came out my bank account was what he put down on his car. You see, that's how you can prove it, circumstantial evidence.

LaMar: Well, that was so long ago, you must have kept a receipt or something.

Lloyd: No, I went to the bank, and the bank always keep records. When I went to the bank and pulled out the $12,000 — like your bank, if you go pull out money, it never go anywhere. You pulled out $12,000 this day.

LaMar: When did Reggie say he'll pay you the $12,000 back?

Lloyd: I never talked to him about it. I wasn't even looking for it back. I just wanted him to come to the company. I told him everything we did for you, because right now it's about two hundred grand. He can keep that or give it to you. If we get Reggie, he can keep that $200,000 we spent over the year and a half, whatever, see what I'm saying? He can just say, "Okay, pay that back to my dad," or he can give it to us, and we'll give it to you.

LaMar: I'm not going to say that I talked to my wife about this, because if I do, she's pissed.

Lloyd: She pissed off with me already. But she shouldn't be mad at me.

LaMar: She's mad at everybody. She's mad at the whole situation.

Lloyd: I wish I never got involved, too. The same way you're feeling, I told Maiesha [former girlfriend] today, I wish I had never got involved in this shit. I thought it was going to be good, and it should have been good.

LaMar: It might still be good, but you see what I'm saying, and I'm going to say this and then I'm just going to leave it, if we're friends and it doesn't go out there like the way it should be, it just should be left alone. Everybody get together, pay the money back that was out and let it be that, and everybody stay friends and keep it moving because we don't need to be trying — all black folks always trying to go do something against somebody because something didn't happen for them. You can't do that. The credibility is going to be lost a little bit, my credibility, your credibility, everybody's credibility is going to be lost a little bit. But when we get together with so-called friends, see that's when the motive of getting together and turning into friends come in, you know what I'm saying. Because if it was vice-a-versa, I'd say, "Look man, whenever you get a chance, give me my $22,000 back or whatever, $30,000 or whatever it is, and we'll just clean the slate." Because like I said before, the decision is if Reggie said you all can come out and do your presentation, I got no problem with it. If that's what he wants, I'm going to call him tonight and find out that's what he says.

The television broadcast opened with a warm welcome from former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani as he stood behind the Heisman Trophy, "Tonight for the seventy-first consecutive year, college football's most prestigious award will be presented in New York City, the capital of the world. New York has always attracted travelers pursuing their dreams and some special out-of-towners are with us this evening, each dreaming of the same coveted surprise. They are all worthy but only one will leave town with the Heisman Trophy. On the behalf of every New Yorker, I bid them welcome and wish all the best of luck in the Big Apple."

ESPN College GameDay anchor Chris Fowler served as the show's host and was joined by colleagues Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso. Fowler eloquently stated the finalists were "forever after immortalized, they are links in a chain connecting eight decades of excellence, college football players who became living symbols of a legacy much larger." Jim Corcoran, a Heisman trustee speaking from Times Square, reminded viewers, "The Heisman Trust exists to preserve the integrity of the trophy and generate funds for charitable purposes."

The broadcast also featured highlight clips of each player as well as taped and live interviews with the fi nalists and their families. When it came to Bush, Fowler said, "The Reggie legend was not built on the what, but the how. His method and his manner exhausts adjectives." San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson detailed in a taped interview how he trained with Bush during Bush's senior season at Helix High and how Bush reminded him of himself.

Denise Griffin, flanked by Javon on stage, talked about how she thought her son was too skinny and sickly due to asthma as a child to play football. "He showed us the skills that he had for a long time," she said. "He was able to get out there and embrace the game as if he was born to play." Denise also recalled when Reggie thought about quitting football as a youth. "One day I was watching [evangelist] T. D. Jakes on TV and he was talking about how people are anointed to do things," she said. "And he [Reggie] walked over to me in the living room and said, 'Mom, that's how I feel. I feel like I am anointed to play football.' "

Sitting in a chair on stage and across from Herbstreit, it was Reggie's turn to impress, which he did easily. He talked lovingly of his mother, "Man, ever since we were young, my mom has been a hard worker. I remember way back when it was just me and her. She would work long hours just to put a roof over our head and food in my mouth. Even today, she works like twelve-hour shifts, to sixteen-hour shifts and drives an hour and a half away just to go to work. I think that's where I really get my work ethic from, and she's a great woman." He explained why he had San Diego's area code, 619, in white letters on the eye black he wore in games. "It's so important to me just because I am proud of where I come from and I do it, just to let people back home know that I am representing you guys, I am going to do it with the utmost class and to let them know that I am not going to forget where I come from."

Lloyd: Not with you, but remember you kept saying, "How would you feel used?" And when I explain it, because you used me. You didn't have to do that, you could have just told me to give you the money.

LaMar: Let you borrow it.

Lloyd: Exactly. You didn't have to lead me on and telling me we are going to do this and that because you telling me this, I'm looking at it like you're a man of your word, so I'm telling these people this. And I'm telling Chief [Michael Michaels], I'm relaying this to Chief, "Reggie's coming." Remember that meeting we had with Reggie? He told me and Chief everything. Remember Chief came home so pumped up?

LaMar: Yeah, see I didn't know that. It's like I'm not even involved in this thing because I don't know what.

Lloyd: What am I supposed to do if Reggie said, "Give me this and don't tell my dad?" If I tell you, then I blow my chances with him, but now it's getting to the point where, damn, I've got to tell the truth because you understand more about principles than words. I mean, it's getting a cold thing that it had to be like this, but that's why people come back and say like, "Yeah, you guys are getting used, Reggie is going with someone else, he's taking money from you guys and going with someone else." That makes you feel like a sucker. That's why I'm like, damn, this could get ugly. That's why I'm trying to make sure it doesn't.

LaMar: It shouldn't get ugly.

Lloyd: But when you feel like you get used, I feel like I got used is the bottom line. I don't feel like it was love there, because if it was, he would have been honest like I'm being with you every time because there is love there and friendship. I'm not trying to manipulate anyone. I feel like I got manipulated right now, honestly.

LaMar: Don't feel that right now because we don't know what's going to happen.

Lloyd: Right.

LaMar: But I really need to sit down, or he needs to talk with me on the phone, he needs to tell me something. Like I said, I did not know that much money was involved. I knew what we did with Mike [Michael Michaels], that was a whole different situation because y'all were talking to Reggie on different terms when I wasn't there. I told Reg, "Don't talk to nobody unless I'm there, because I need to know what you said."

Bush won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, capturing the highest number of first-place votes since O. J. Simpson won nearly four decades earlier. As Fowler said before the announcement, "At any time with any touch, he can defy the boundaries of belief...with a flair that's almost unfair."

Bush became the seventh player from USC to win the Heisman Trophy and the third over a four-year span. He joined former Trojans Mike Garrett (1965), currently the school's athletic director, Simpson (1968), Charles White (1979), Marcus Allen (1981), Carson Palmer (2002), and Leinart (2004). USC is only the fourth school to have back-to-back winners and the first since Ohio State University's Archie Griffin won back-to-back awards in 1974 and 1975. USC joined Notre Dame as the only schools with seven Heisman winners. Bush polled 784 first-place votes for 2,541 points to capture the award over Young (1,608 points) and Leinart (797).

As the crowd quieted, Bush grasped the podium and, from his heart and without notes, spoke for three minutes and twenty-two seconds. His speech was interrupted five times by applause.

Oh, man, this is amazing. This is truly an honor to be elected to this fraternity of Heisman winners. I don't know if I am more excited to win this trophy or to be up here with all these guys. Gosh. Just to think I am in college for three years and this is the first time I get invited to a fraternity, so I think that's pretty good. I think I am doing pretty good right now. Clearly, this is a...man, I couldn't have done this alone. The fi rst person I'd like to thank is God because without him none of this would be possible. My family, for your unconditional love and support throughout my life. My mom, I mean, since we were young you've always worked hard, to show me the way, to show me how to do it. A woman of God, and I love you for that. My dad, what can I say? You took me in at the age of two...and it takes a man to do something like that. I love you. To my brother, you've been my inspiration, my number-one fan. I know you're six-two and you're only fourteen years old, but I am always going to be your big brother. To my second family, USC — my teammates, my coaches, strength staff, this honor...it's an honor to win this award and it's equally yours as it is mine. To my offensive line, what more can I say? You guys have been big for me this year. Gave me an opportunity to go out there and do what I do, to make moves and I love you guys for it. To Matt, man, I mean, what more can I say? The decision to come back this year has changed my life so much, thank you. To Coach Carroll, Coach McNair, the rest of the coaches, man, I love you guys so much. You guys are the best coaches, the best coaches I've ever had, I ever wish for. Trying to make sure I get everybody. And finally, to the Heisman voters, my new fraternity brothers, members of the sports media, thank you for your votes. Appreciate it greatly. Thank you.

Lloyd Lake's mother, Barbara Gunner, and sister, Lisa Lake, also watched the award presentation from their homes in the San Diego area. They had been pulled into the business venture by Lloyd, who was looking to straighten out a life that often landed on the wrong side of the law. Like Lloyd, Barbara and Lisa, a morning television news anchor in San Diego, knew the agreement with Bush was deteriorating.

Lisa Lake received a telephone call from Denise Griffin in New York City soon after her son won the Heisman. Lisa and Barbara often talked by telephone with Denise — so often, in fact, that Denise's name and number were programmed into their cellular phones. "She told me, 'I am so proud of him.' I was too because I told her, 'We're watching and we saw you guys,' and everything was great," Lisa Lake said. "That was the last time I remember thinking things were great."

And in these next three recorded excerpts, things had turned bizarre as Lloyd Lake weaved in the writings of Italian diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) and LaMar later reminded Lake the importance of Scripture. Lake said he first read Machiavaelli's book The Prince in his early twenties.

Lloyd: Hold on. Machiavelli book, man. Now tell me if this is true. This gets fucked up, Big Dog. I tried to call Reg, like you said. He don't call me back.

LaMar: He don't call nobody back, man. He don't call nobody. The only time I see Reggie or talk to Reggie is when I see him for five minutes in the evening, or when I see him last night at the banquet. He don't call nobody back.

Lloyd: I'm trying to figure out what's going on with the money, and how we're going to work that out?

LaMar: What money? What are you talking about? We already talked about this.

Lloyd: No, that's not what I'm talking about. Remember you told me we need to sit down, me and him, and go over everything?

LaMar: But not now, Lake.

Lloyd: When do you do it, Big Dog?

LaMar: Why are you panicking so much, Lake?

Lloyd: Because I'm panicking, shit.

LaMar: But why?

Lloyd: Because he could easily say, "I ain't giving you shit back."

LaMar: Why would you think Reggie would do that? Reggie told you, he already told you he's going to give it back. He told me he's going to give it back to you. He said, "Whatever I put in, whatever Lake gave me, I'll give it back." Why do you think Reggie would go against that?

Lloyd: Because he went against everything else he said. Look, it [Machiavelli] says, "Since the Prince must know well how to use the nature of the beast, he must choose the fox and the lion from among them. For the lion cannot defend himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. Therefore it's necessary to be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to fi ght the wolves. Those who live simply by the lion do not understand this. Therefore a prudent ruler cannot and must not keep his word. When keeping it will work against him and when the reason were made and the promises have been removed and men were all good, this precept would not be good. But since they are sadly wicked and would not keep their words to you, you do also do not be keeping to them." Do you see what he's saying with that? He's saying we are deceitful from the beginning.

LaMar: But see you were deceitful from the beginning too.

Lloyd: How?

LaMar: The motive that you was at.

Lloyd: I told you the motive, we're eating together. It's a business. Before I talked to you and it's different if you're being deceitful.

LaMar: Lake, hear me out, man.

Lloyd: I'll hear you out.

LaMar: We discussed this about the money way before I left to go to New York City. Whatever you gave Reggie, Reggie's not going to turn it back and not give you — if he don't come to the business, he's not going to say, "Oh, Lake, you know, thank you but no thank you." Reggie's not going to do that to you because he told me himself, he said, "Tell Lake if I don't come to this business or whatever, I'm giving him every penny that he gave me from the car, to the little money that you've given him before." He's not going do you like that.

LaMar: Like I said, I'm not in it because if anything happens, it's going to happen to Reggie. It ain't going to happen to me because he's the one been doing the stuff behind my back. I told him not to, I said, "Whatever you do, let me know, I got your back, but let me know." See, if he took money from you like that and I didn't know nothing about it, and shit falls on his head, what can I do? I love him, but...

Lloyd: I don't want to get in any of that, I just want to pull it off.

LaMar: I understand that, but if it's not pulled off, we're going to have to get together and fi gure out how we're going to get the money back to everybody and everything else like that that money was taken from. But see that part he took, that's between you and him. And I'm worried about my part with Mike. I'm not worried about that shit I didn't know. So I had nothing to do with it. That's between you and him. If you wanted to go do all that and then come call and tell me, did you tell Lake? Then I'd say, "Well, shit, I didn't say anything, you did." I'm going to have to have a talk with Reggie and tell Reggie, "Man, you didn't tell me what's going on, man. Shit I need to know. You need to tell me if you took money from anybody anywhere. I don't care who, you need to let me know. Because if you don't let me know, it's still not being true, he's not helping me out. But if I just say okay, I'll just let it go, I can't let it go because he's not telling me the truth. I told him, "If you do anything with anybody...."

Lloyd: What I'm afraid of is he took money from other people and probably did like the same situation.

LaMar: I don't think he'd do nothing like that.

Lloyd: I hope not. Right now, I'm telling you right now, if it was one of them white boys he did that to, they would bribe [blackmail] him right now. They would bribe [blackmail] him, period. Period. Look, your mom and them got the house. My partner paid for that. You know, they would bribe [blackmail] him no question. You want the Heisman, you want to fi nish this out? They would bribe [blackmail] him. I'm not that type of person. I just want to pull it off. I'm not going to try to bribe [blackmail] no one or threaten nobody with certain things, I just want to pull the thing off like everybody said together when we started. If we can do, the best way to do something is clean all the time. If we can pull it off and keep it clean, that's the best thing to do.

Lloyd: I don't want to argue either, but this is what I'm saying.

LaMar: I'm not going to allow you to blackmail Reggie or myself.

Lloyd: How am I blackmailing anybody?

LaMar: I'm just saying, Lake.

Lloyd: Blackmailing is when you — I'm just trying to figure out how to get my money back.

LaMar: You'll get your money back.

Lloyd: It's not like that, Big Dog. You can't say that for all the time and effort you put in, I'm going to just give you your money back. Why the fuck would I give you my money just to get the same amount of money back?

LaMar: But see, another thing is too, Lake.

Lloyd: Why would I do that?

LaMar: I'm going to tell you about yourself.

Lloyd: Tell me about myself, I want to hear it. And I'm going to tell you about yourself.

LaMar: You got a hustle mentality. You know what? You still got to come up there and present the agency to Reggie.

Lloyd: Reggie don't want to hear that because JC [Pearson, Bush's cousin and former NFL player with the Kansas City Chiefs] is up there telling them foolishness.

LaMar: JC hasn't even talked to Reggie, what are you talking about? He ain't even talked to Reggie. Reggie don't even return JC's calls. He was trying to call him and congratulate him for the Heisman. He's not talking to nobody. I couldn't even talk to my own son. What are you talking about? You're out here playing and acting a fool because you thinking about someone is going to fuck your money.

Lloyd: I got to think about my money that I put in that I'm going to lose behind people's words.

LaMar: But see no, sometimes it happens that way.

Lloyd: No, it doesn't happen that way.

LaMar: I have lost a lot of things by people saying they're going to do something for me. They're going to do this and they're going to do that, and it don't happen. You know what? Put that goddamn Machiavelli book down and pick up the Word and read the Word and see what the Word say about people promising. People don't promise. Jesus died on the cross behind crap like that. He died. I don't care about no Machiavellian. I care about the Word of God.

Lloyd: I understand that, Big Dog.

LaMar: Pick up the Bible and read that, and then come back and tell me some Scripture, about stuff like that.

Over the course of nine months, from March 2005 until the month he won the Heisman, phone records obtained by the authors show that Reggie Bush and LaMar Griffin exchanged phone calls with Lloyd Lake on his cell an astonishing 484 times. But on this night, there was no call.

Reggie's acceptance speech was gracious, classy, articulate.

Reggie Bush thanked everyone.

Except Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels.

Copyright © 2008 by Don Yaeger

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Meet the Author

Don Yaeger is a former associate editor for Sports Illustrated. He is the author of seven books and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Under the Tarnished Dome and the critically acclaimed Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL.

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