STORRS - Kyle Buss needed some good news. Life hadnâ€™t exactly been kind to him in recent years, and the UConn junior wide receiver deserved a break.
A transfer from Robert Morris, Buss and the UConn coaching staff thought for a while that the 6-foot-1, 181-pound New Berlin, New York, native might have to sit out the entire 2017 season.
But word came down from the NCAA three days before the Huskiesâ€™ game against East Carolina last week: Buss was cleared to play.
â€śBig sigh of relief and excitement. Itâ€™s been a long time, a long road,â€ť Buss said this week as he and his teammates prepared for Saturdayâ€™s game in Dallas against SMU (4 p.m., ESPNEWS). â€śWhen coach pulled me in and told me it was like Christmas.â€ť
And when Buss was able to take the field for the first time against the Pirates on Sunday, he was as excited as child opening up a particularly desirable present. So much so that on the third play of his UConn career, Buss plowed into East Carolina punt returner Quay Johnson, even though Johnson had not come close to fielding the punt.
â€śI knew I screwed up. It was the jitters and I was looking for the ball and running fast as I could,â€ť Buss said of the penalty called on him. â€śIt wonâ€™t happen again, Iâ€™ll tell you that.â€ť
UConn coach Randy Edsall wasnâ€™t too upset over the blunder, in part because he know the penalty came as the result of maximum effort. â€śThatâ€™s just an honest mistake,â€ť Edsall said. â€śStuff like that, you live with it.â€ť
Buss has had a long journey just to get to this point in his football career.
After a highly successful redshirt freshman season at Robert Morris in 2015, Bussâ€™ mother Karen was diagnosed with stage 4 abdominal cancer. As his motherâ€™s primary care giver, Buss stepped away from college and from college football to care for her.
â€śMy mother got sick, terminally ill. And I was the primary caretaker. I decided to leave school and go home, put that before my education and my football for the time being,â€ť Buss said.
â€śI donâ€™t have any regrets but sitting back and kind of watching football on TV was a little tough,â€ť Buss added.
Bussâ€™ mother survived the initial stages of her ordeal, and was on hand to see Kyle play Saturday in East Hartford.
At Robert Morris, an FCS school near Pittsburgh, Buss was named All-Northeast Conference second team in 2015, catching 50 passes for 742 yards.
When he felt ready to return to school, Buss didnâ€™t have a lot of choices when it came to college football programs.
â€śThe waiver I had limited me to the vicinity of my home. Thereâ€™s only a few schools that were valid options for me,â€ť Buss said. â€śMy father is an alumni here, he played football here. It was obviously very appealing to me.â€ť
David Buss was a linebacker for the Huskies in the 1979-80 season, his son said.
Edsall was pleased to welcome Kyle to his team.
â€śHeâ€™s fast. Heâ€™s tough. Heâ€™s a competitor. Heâ€™s relentless. Heâ€™s all those qualities you want in a student-athlete and a football player,â€ť Edsall said. â€śIâ€™d take a hundred of those guys.â€ť
While he was waiting for a decision to be made on his eligibility for this season Buss was seemingly working hard in practice. He was twice named one of the Huskiesâ€™ scout team players of the week.
And this week against the Mustangs, Buss will be allowed to contribute even more on the field for UConn. With Jordan Swann out with a concussion, Buss will be the Huskiesâ€™ primary kick returner. Heâ€™ll also continue to play on most of the Huskiesâ€™ other special teams.
â€śWherever I can help the team. I came in here with the expectation for myself to come in and help this team win. Wherever the coaches feel that I can help this team win, Iâ€™ll go out and do that. Kick returner it is. Iâ€™m excited to get out there and make some plays for this team,â€ť Buss said.
Although teammate Mason Donaldson had a breakout game last week, the Huskies are still going to be down a receiver for the next month at least as Hergy Mayala recovers from a high ankle sprain.
Thereâ€™s a good chance Buss will play on offense, too.
â€śTheyâ€™re implementing me here and there,â€ť Buss said. â€śIâ€™m doing whatever they (need).â€ť