By Bob Hertzel
MORGANTOWN — He probably won’t play this week.
He probably won’t play this year, although it would not make much sense to bet against him avoiding a redshirt season by playing at least on special teams because, well, he is a freshman who is a special player.
It’s difficult to even figure out a way to characterize Branko Busick, a freshman linebacker out of Steubenville, Ohio, other than to say he is just that ... a character.
After a brief sitdown with him, the best way to describe him is that he is a professional wrestler waiting to happen, which is not surprising, since his father is — or was — Big Bully Busick, one of the baddest of the bad when he came to the professional wrestling circuit.
There are certain images you take out of your first face-to-face meeting with Busick, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound specimen.
The first comes when you ask him about his family.
“There’s me, my dad, my mom, my brother and our pet,” he answers.
“Yeah, a 200-pound English mastiff,” he says. “You ought to try wrestling that around.”
Eh, no thanks.
Then there’s the idea that he is going to move from football to coach Craig Turnbull’s wrestling team after the season, and this isn’t just some football player turned wrestler. Turnbull has ideas that he can become something special at that sport, too.
Certainly it’s no gimmick.
Of course, Busick has no idea how he’s going to make it work with overlapping seasons and school work and the like.
“I’m pretty curious to see how it works myself,” he said. “I got in the (wrestling) room a little bit and it felt great. Then football time came around and that now comes first.”
Of course, football and wrestling aren’t enough, either.
His true love is mixed martial arts, which he comes by quite naturally.
His dad, who started out as a policeman in Atlanta, took up professional wrestling, moved back to Weirton and then to Steubenville, worked in security at the Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino and who now has “L.A. Fitness,” a gym and smoothie bar in Pittsburgh, while also promoting mixed martial arts competition, introduced Busick to Brandon Lee Hinkle and Mark Coleman.
“They were real big in my life,” Busick said.
Coleman was a national championship wrestler at Ohio State and now fights mixed martial arts, while Hinkle was a three-time national champion wrestler at Division II and now fights mixed martial arts out of Weirton.
That’s impressive company, but his brother, who is now a state trooper, goes him one better.
His godfather is Hossein Koshrow Ali Varizi.
You may know him under his professional wrestling name of The Iron Sheik.
He ended Bob Backlund’s six-year reign as World Wrestling Federation champion and was the man Hulk Hogan beat to win his first WWF title. He rode that to some quite interesting appearances on the Howard Stern show.
He wasn’t bad as a legitimate wrestler as he won a Pan-American Games medal.
“Wrestling,” said Busick, “is the ultimate sport. It’s like an art. Beautiful. Football is also one of the best sports. How many times do you get to crack someone and not get in trouble?”
Ask Busick what he likes best, and he tells you “I like the gladiator sports,” but then sort of takes a step backward.
“It isn’t that I want to sound like a trained killer. I’m really a great guy, a (Troy) Polamalu type,” he said.
And he is. He’s a nice guy away from the arena but has this engine that turns on be he wrestling or playing football.
He says it all works together — wrestling, mixed martial arts and football.
“It’s all mental toughness,” he says. “Say it’s fourth and three and you’re tired. It’s like overtime in a wrestling match. You have to suck it up. You can’t bend over. You have to bring everything. It’s a gut check.”
And that’s just the kind of football player coach Bill Stewart and his defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel are looking for. They feel all they have to do now is add the refinements and build up some more size.”
“Branko Busick is a good football player. He is getting reps with the twos with certain packages and then he is running with the threes. He has a nose for the football and he is a down-and-go player and he is tough,” Casteel said.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.