When Jay Bush graduated from UT’s College of Business Administration in 1986 with a degree in transportation and logistics, he didn’t expect to become a national ad campaign spokesperson.
“I started my career with a trucking company in Atlanta,” Bush said.
But before long, he returned to Knoxville and a role in the family business: Bush Brothers & Co. “It just evolved from there,” he said, and thus Jay Bush (along with his faithful companion Duke, the talkative golden retriever) has become the face of Bush’s Best Beans.
Bush described the success of his and Duke’s campaign as “phenomenal,” and he joked that he sometimes goes “incognito” these days.
“I definitely can’t take the dog out for a quiet walk around the neighborhood anymore,” he said. “People recognize us.”
This fall, they’ve been recognized at sporting events around the country, traveling with Bush’s Tailgate Research Institute Tour to meet and recognize diehard fans who are hosting great tailgate parties and serving up Bush’s Best Beans. Tailgate tour stops have included NASCAR races, NFL games, and—of course—UT Homecoming.
Bush said UT tailgaters are among the best that they’ve seen on the tour. He also said growing up near the University of Tennessee gave him an early appreciation for the “tailgate atmosphere.”
UT Knoxville also gave Bush “the social skills and the academic foundation” to be successful in business, he said.
Being back on campus brought back a lot of good memories for Bush. He recalled one specific don’t-try-this-at-home moment from his college days: tray sliding.
“One day we got a lot of snow, and classes were canceled. So we stole some trays from Sophie’s (dining hall) and went ‘sledding’ on them down 17th Street,” Bush said.
He said he was thankful for the warm reception at Homecoming: “We’ve been welcomed back with open arms. It’s been a great chance to see old friends, make new friends, and enjoy some great food.”
Bush said thanks on Duke’s behalf as well. Along with Bush, the golden retriever posed for pictures and signed autographs for fans who lined up during Party in the Park for their chance to meet the celebs.
“That line of people—I know it’s not for me, it’s for him,” Bush said with a laugh. “I don’t blame them. Duke’s a rock star.”
Jay Bush and Duke are pictured above