The Lions' courtship of Reggie Bush began long before free agency opened 12 days ago.

Matthew Stafford started following Bush on Twitter in mid-February, the first public display of affection by a team desperate to add Bush's big-play ability to its backfield.

Calvin Johnson traded text messages with Bush, hoping to help lure the running back to Detroit.

And shortly after Nate Burleson made a pitch on NFL Network to land Bush, the Lions receiver tracked down Bush's phone number through a mutual friend and sent him a couple of introductory texts.

First, Burleson apologized for reaching out in such a roundabout way. Second, he told Bush he was the missing piece the Lions needed to complete their offense.

"I just said ... your services would be highly appreciated in Detroit, and we would have a really good team, you could help us make that step towards postseason playoffs and Super Bowl," Burleson said. "And I just waited. Didn't want to flood him with text messages, didn't want to go over the top and seem artificial, I just was simple with it. And he responded (within a day).

"He was like, 'I appreciate it, one. And two, I would love to play with that offense you guys have up there, we'll see what happens.' He said, 'I'm definitely going to listen.' "

More than listen, Bush came and saw and heard -- and less than 24 hours into free agency, before visiting any other team, he signed a four-year, $16-million deal to give the Lions their most high-profile free agent since maybe Scott Mitchell two decades ago.

Burleson and others in the organization were giddy beyond belief.

"It was like a little kid having a new toy to play with on Christmas," said Burleson, who called the team offices on other business the day Bush signed and happened to talk to the running back again. "That's exactly how I felt. This is like the fastest remote control car at Toys R Us and we got it, and we're going to have fun when the sun comes out. That's exactly what was going through my head."

Bush is a transcendent talent with mass appeal who's entering the eighth season of something less than a Hall-of-Fame career.