Bushore's struggle with dyslexia made his graduation from BYU in physical education a turning point in his life

don bushore playing football

He holds the BYU record for highest average punt return yardage in a season at 22.9 yards per return, as well as for the most punt returns in a single game with eight. These records seem especially impressive because they have been standing for more than 65 years. What is most impressive about these records, though, is the man behind them.

Donald Bushore was always an athlete. A native of Paterson, NJ, he attended Eastside High School in the early 1940s (the high school later made famous by Lean on Me, a 1989 film starring Morgan Freeman). While in high school Bushore excelled in both baseball and football. He also played alongside Larry Doby, the second African-American in major league baseball behind Jackie Robinson, who entered the league just two months before he did. Doby played and managed in the major leagues for several decades, and in 1998 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Towards the end of WWII, Bushore enlisted in the Navy. While stationed in San Diego, he met Glen Clark, a native of Springville, Utah, who planned to attend Brigham Young University. Like Bushore, Clark was an excellent athlete, and the two played football and baseball together on the Navy base. When the war ended, Clark convinced Bushore, not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to play football with him at BYU.

Bushore entered BYU with Clark in 1946 as a versatile return man, running back, and quarterback. At BYU he quickly developed a close relationship with Dr. Edwin R. “Eddie” Kimball, who was both the head football coach and university athletic director. Bushore soon found in Dr. Kimball not only a great coach, but also a great mentor and teacher. “Dr. Eddie Kimball was one of the finest men I ever had the chance to meet,” Bushore said. “I don’t know how much is remembered of him or how much is said of him, but it’s not enough. He was a great teacher—not of subjects, but of men.”

Dr. Kimball counseled Bushore through tough times and difficult decisions. After his first year Bushore, who had dropped out of high school because of dyslexia, was struggling academically. At this time he received a telegram from the Brooklyn Dodgers inviting him to play for their minor league organization, the Montreal Royals. (Bushore had first tried out for the Dodgers at Ebbets Field when he was only 14 years old). Nevertheless, Dr. Kimball convinced him to stay and continue both his education and athletic career at BYU—a decision he said he has never regretted.

For three more years Bushore stayed at BYU. He continued to play football, setting new records with each season and lettering, although his impact extended beyond football. With the help of Dr. Kimball, who was the university’s athletic director, he was instrumental in 1947 in restarting the university’s baseball team, which had not existed for 26 years. Bushore lettered in baseball the next year, while the team made a Cinderella run in the conference championship under Stan Watts, the men’s head basketball coach and newly appointed baseball coach.

As part of Bushore’s scholarship agreement, which included $50 dollars a month, he also refereed inter-squad basketball scrimmages for Watts. Although he had not been much of a basketball player growing up, his athleticism and competitive nature quickly turned him into a talented basketball player, and in 1950, while participating in a Salt Lake City industrial basketball league, he was part of a team that won 52 straight games.

That same year Bushore graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s of physical education. This success, the culmination of his struggles to compensate for dyslexia, also proved a turning point for the rest of his life. The versatile and indefatigable athlete started his career as a versatile and indefatigable coach and educator.

The transition was not smooth, however. Bushore worked at a Provo car dealership for four years before finding a coaching job at Lund High School in Lund, Nevada. In this small town he wasn’t just the basketball coach, though, but also the high school principal and an elementary school teacher. Shortly afterward he moved to White Pine High School in Ely, Nevada, a bigger high school in the same district as Lund High. While at White Pine, Bushore once again played a variety of roles. “I did a little bit of everything,” he explained. “I was the head basketball coach, the head football coach, and I was even the bus driver.”

Two short years later Bushore moved to Jacksonville, Florida, to coach high school basketball, golf, tennis, and football. He stayed there until 1964 when he decided to return to BYU and earn a master’s degree in both sports administration and secondary school administration. Within another two short years, Bushore had published his thesis, which provided a comprehensive list of football injuries and their treatments, and found a job as the head wrestling coach at New Mexico State University. Because he did not have any experience wrestling, he enlisted the help of Fred Davis, BYU’s head wrestling coach, Oklahoma State University legend, and former NCAA champion. Davis taught Bushore as much as he could over the next few months.

Bushore coached for one year at New Mexico State before landing a job with the Athletic Institute, a Chicago-based organization specializing in athletic training. In 1969, after working as the company’s Midwest regional manager and administrative assistant to the company president, Dr. Frank B. Jones, he was named vice-president by the Athletic Institute’s board of directors.

As vice-president, Bushore extended his coaching influence to a national audience. He helped launch the Athletic Institute’s film division, the first of its kind in the athletic training industry. Over the next couple of decades he also served as the film division’s executive director for hundreds of short films dedicated to instructing people on every aspect of every sport, from proper shooting form in basketball to proper balance beam technique in gymnastics to the proper swing in golf.

Under his direction, the Athletic Institute produced 5,000 hours of instructional film for ESPN, which it ordered to air on TV. With these films, the Athletic Institute also produced hundreds of instructional books with thousands of printings each. For Bushore, not the quantity but the value of these films was important. “The greatest thing while working for the Athletic Institute was the opportunity to travel around the nation and find the best consultants, coaches, and athletes for these films,” Bushore said. “We wanted to produce the best quality films we could.”

Now 87 years old, Bushore has been retired for a short time, but he’s not finished with coaching and teaching. An avid golfer, he teaches golf once a week at the Golf Club of Quincy in Quincy, Florida, showing that the greatest legacy he will have contributed will go beyond athletic skills to coaching and education.