When Immanuel Bush stepped off the charter bus with the rest of his Marshall teammates before the Thundering Herd’s game at James Madison in late October, he didn’t know what to expect.
It was Marshall’s first time playing at Bridgeforth Stadium in program history, so that feeling was palpable around most of the Thundering Herd.
But when Bush took to the field, he had a career-best afternoon, posting 1.5 sacks while using his 300-pound frame and strength to push past the JMU offensive line in what the defensive lineman called the “funnest game that I played in all year.”
“It just felt like that’s what college football is supposed to be,” Bush said. “From the fans to the game, there wasn’t any dirtiness from JMU players or us. That’s the kind of game that I think college football should be like.”
Fast forward a few months, and after less than 30 days in the transfer portal, Bush announced his commitment to JMU on Sunday — becoming the 10th transfer to commit to the Dukes for the fall — with three years of eligibility remaining.
The Lancaster, S.C., native is the second Marshall defensive lineman to transfer to JMU in the past two seasons. Jamare Edwards made a move at the same time last year and had a productive final season of college football with the Dukes, recording 12.5 tackles for a loss en route to a second-team All-Sun Belt selection.
Bush said he talked with Edwards a little before making his transfer decision and his former teammate had nothing but praise for the program.
“He was really positive about JMU, so that really helped me pick JMU,” Bush said. “I was just like, ‘If Jamare speaks highly of it, then it must be a good school.’”
In two seasons with the Thundering Herd, Bush posted 35 tackles with 5.5 for a loss, including 3.5 sacks in 22 games. He redshirted during the 2021 season, thus leaving him with a trio of years to finish his collegiate career.
Bush said his goal is to improve as a defensive lineman in Harrisonburg. And he’ll do that under JMU defensive line coach Pat Kuntz, who Bush called “electrifying.”
“I want to be a better student of the game,” Bush said. “I’ll need more studying, I need to strengthen my move set, so I can be a better overall player.”
He’ll provide depth to the position for the Dukes, who lost Edwards to his eligibility running out at the end of the fall. The rest of the JMU defensive line has eligibility remaining, including defensive end Isaac Ukwu, who hasn’t publicly said if he will use the final season.
Outside of growing as a defensive lineman, Bush said the stadium atmosphere on gameday and the coaching staff’s mindset attracted him to JMU.
But another part of it was the winning culture.
He added that he wasn’t surprised to see the Dukes find success in the Sun Belt Conference this past fall, finishing atop the East Division standings. Instead, he had previously watched the Dukes’ FCS playoff runs and knew it was possible.
And he made another point that JMU should have played in the Sun Belt title game this season.
“JMU was robbed of a championship last year, so I just want to bring that to JMU,” Bush said.
But in Bush’s mind, a Sun Belt title is just the start of what he thinks JMU’s potential is, which might conclude with a College Football Playoff appearance when the field expands to 12 teams in the 2024-25 season.
“Honestly, I believe this team can go to the championship [and] win it, bowl game [and] win it, put us in the College Football Playoff,” Bush said. “We will win. I’m just looking forward to contributing to that.”