Unbreakable: OSU's Jonathan Rush navigates the twists and turns of life

Look at the tattoo on the inside of Jonathan Rush's left forearm, and you'll notice the word running from elbow to wrist. UNBREAKABLE. But look again, and you'll see the year that forever changed the Oklahoma State offensive lineman.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: November 10, 2010 at 10:02 pm •  Published: November 10, 2010

STILLWATER — Look at the tattoo on the inside of Jonathan Rush's left forearm, and you'll notice the word running from elbow to wrist.

UNBREAKABLE.

But look again, and you'll see the year that forever changed the Oklahoma State offensive lineman. The year his grandma and his grandpa died of cancer. The year his brother was sentenced to 45 years in prison. The year another brother was killed in a car accident.

The year: 1999.

Rush was 10 years old.

"Just a lot to deal with," he said. "But you live. You overcome."

Rush sure has.

A year ago, the would-be starter was sidelined with a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the entire season. Now, he is part of an offensive line that has gone from question mark to success story. Heading into Saturday's game at Texas, it has allowed only nine sacks through nine games, best in the Big 12.

Brandon Weeden has been able to pick apart defenses because of these big fellows.

Then again, Rush has no problem helping protect the Cowboy quarterback. Handling a blitzing linebacker or a bullrushing nose guard is nothing for a guy who has already taken some of the biggest hits that life can offer.

Rush didn't see any of them coming.

The first hit blindsided him in the spring of 1999. An out-of-the-blue call delivered news that was as devastating as it was surprising. His grandma was in a Houston-area hospital, and doctors said she had cancer that had gone undiagnosed. She only had a couple hours to live.

Rush's family was three hours away in Killeen, Texas. They drove as fast as possible.

"But we didn't make it there in time," Rush said.

Only a few months later, Rush's grandpa lost his own battle with cancer.

Losing his grandparents was sad, but what really crushed Rush was seeing how badly it hurt his parents. His father, David, was a career Army man, his mother, Gerilyn, worked to make ends meet, and while times could be tough and money could be tight, the youngest of six kids always felt protected and sheltered.

Rush thought of his parents as superheroes.

"To see your superhero... get hurt," Rush said, shaking his head, "it's like, 'Oh, gosh, the real world can touch you. You're not in a bubble.'"

That reality hit Rush again that summer, twice.

First, his older brother Kenya was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. Even though he was only 17 years old at the time, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Then only a month later, Rush's older brother David was returning to Killeen when his car swerved off the road. No one knows exactly what happened, but he overcorrected, went into the ditch and crashed into a tree.

A trooper with the Texas Highway Patrol knocked on the family's door a few hours later with the horrible news: David was dead.

Rush remembers his father wailing, gasping to catch his breath between sobs.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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