PHOENIX — Matt Bushman’s 2022 season has been sidetracked a bit by an ill-timed injury.

Even so, there’s a chance the former BYU tight end, now in his second year in the NFL, may have his season defined by something else: being a Super Bowl champion with the Kansas City Chiefs.

“It’s been cool to see his growth. He was definitely making some plays in training camp and in the preseason before he got banged up, and it’s good to have him back in the building. I’m sure he’s flying high right now being in the Super Bowl in his home state.” — Travis Kelce on Matt Bushman

Barring something unforeseen, Bushman, as a practice squad member, won’t be playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles (4:30 p.m. MST) at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Instead, he’s helping prepare his teammates for a matchup of the top seeds from the NFC and AFC — and Bushman is doing so in his home state. He hails from Tucson, a nearly two-hour drive southeast of the Phoenix metropolitan area. 

“It’s just awesome to know that my family will be able to be at the game, and having friends and coaches reaching out and congratulating me for being a part of this organization,” Bushman told the Deseret News earlier this week during Super Bowl festivities.

“It’s a surreal moment and it’s awesome to be in Arizona.”

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A big night spoiled by injury

Bushman endured a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows — all in one night — in a game that could have kept him from experiencing this moment altogether.

On Aug. 25 in Kansas City’s preseason finale, Bushman scored two touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers — one on a 54-yarder, the other on a 2-yard pass — and finished the game with three catches for 73 yards.

Those were the first two scores of his young pro career.

But on that third catch, Bushman was injured while being tackled. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who had praised Bushman for showing “phenomenal hands” as a pass catcher during training camp, said after the game he suffered a broken clavicle.

That led to Bushman reaching an injury settlement with the Chiefs, making him eligible to sign with any team once he healed.

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Matt Bushman celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. It was one of two TDs he scored in the game. | Ed Zurga, Associated Press

‘I’m sure he’s flying high right now’

Bushman was without a team until mid-December, when Kansas City called again, signing him back to the practice squad.

“Just knowing that I got surgery, (then) got re-signed and we’ve had this incredible run, I’m just super grateful,” Bushman said, adding that he was medically cleared to return to play earlier than expected. Then it was a waiting game until someone — in this case, his former team — desired his services.

“Once I got the call that they wanted to re-sign me, I hopped on a flight and got back as soon as I could.” 

Travis Kelce, the Chiefs’ eight-time Pro Bowl tight end and one of the leaders in the locker room, embraced having a “good teammate” like Bushman back with the team.

“It’s been cool to see his growth. He was definitely making some plays in training camp and in the preseason before he got banged up, and it’s good to have him back in the building,” Kelce said of Bushman on Tuesday.

“I’m sure he’s flying high right now being in the Super Bowl in his home state.”

Finding BYU connections in Kansas City

Being in Arizona for the Super Bowl isn’t the only point of familiarity for Bushman. With Kansas City, he’s surrounded by a handful of BYU connections.

It took Bushman, who had more than 1,700 receiving yards at BYU but missed his senior season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a bit of a detour to get to Kansas City when he first entered the NFL.

He originally signed with the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted rookie in early 2021, and stayed with the Raiders through most of the 2021 season as a member of the team’s practice squad. 

He landed with the Chiefs in January 2022. 

Now, he plays for Reid, another notable BYU alum and one of the top coaches in the NFL. Bushman is teammates with another Cougar, safety Zayne Anderson, who played at BYU at the same time as him.

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They’re joined by Porter Ellett, a BYU graduate who once worked in the Cougars’ football equipment room and is now the Chiefs offensive quality control coach.

“It’s been super fun. It’s nice just having a familiar face from college — we see each other at practice, we go against each other sometimes,” Bushman said of Anderson. “He’s become a really close friend of mine and someone I can rely on here.”

Like Bushman, Anderson is a second-year practice squad guy.

Reid spoke highly of the two former Cougars, and their place on his team.

Kansas City Chiefs tight ends Matt Bushman (49), Blake Bell (81) and Noah Gray stretch during a workout Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. | Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

“They have a chance to be very good. They’re on the practice squad — in today’s world, that means something because you can get anybody veteran-wise to be on your practice squad,” Reid told the Deseret News. “They’ve earned the right to be there, and it’s just a matter of time and experience.”

Being prepared during Super Bowl week

In the immediate future, Bushman is busy helping the Chiefs prepare to play the Eagles, and his assignment for the Super Bowl is imitating Philadelphia tight end Dallas Goedert — no small task considering Goedert is one of quarterback Jalen Hurts’ top targets.

“There’s still a select few guys on the practice squad and if, heaven forbid, if someone goes down, I’m going to be prepared. You never know when your name is going to be called, you just have to prepare like you are going to play.” — Matt Bushman

“I just try to give a good look for the defense and run fast, catch balls, so that when it’s game time, they know what to expect,” Bushman said.

His preparations haven’t been limited to on-the-field stuff, either.

Between his injury during the preseason and the one that ended his BYU career early, the 6-foot-5 multisport athlete (he also played baseball at BYU) is no stranger to battling through the mental side of recovering from an injury.

“Injuries stink, because you’re in your own head a little bit, not knowing if a team is going to call,” he said. “Man, are the Chiefs going to want me back? But once you realize you get that call again, you just hope that you have prepared and are ready to give, know that you deserve to be in the building.” 

As one of 16 players on the Chiefs practice squad, he understands the importance of always being ready when called upon.

“There’s still a select few guys on the practice squad and if, heaven forbid, if someone goes down, I’m going to be prepared. You never know when your name is going to be called, you just have to prepare like you are going to play,” Bushman said.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that Bushman loves the organization he’s with.

“I’m loving it in Kansas City, I love the fanbase, I love the people, and I hope I can stay here and keep playing,” he said.

BYU tight end Matt Bushman heads up the field after making a catch during a game against Fresno State in Fresno, California, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Bushman enjoyed a stellar career for the Cougars prior to taking his game to the NFL. | BYU Photo