The Class of '94
Josh Booty believes it is a typo, but because it concerns the Booty legend, who can be sure? On a recent cover of Tiger Rag, a magazine devoted to LSU sports, Booty's photo appears with the headline JOSH BOOTY, ANGEL QUARTERBACK. The word should have been Evangel—Booty's high school in Shreveport—but Angel may be more apropos.
Outside as well as inside Louisiana, Booty has already achieved celestial rank. A 6'3", 210-pound senior, he is considered the best schoolboy quarterback in the nation. He is also a shortstop whom Baseball America has proclaimed the country's top high school prospect. Five Sundays ago, when Booty stood up in church (not just any church, but the First Assembly of God, whose services are broadcast locally on a show entitled The Best Is Yet To Come, and one of whose associate evangelists is Josh's father, John) and orally committed to play both sports at LSU, well, hell (sorry, heck), the entire state just got down on its knees and gave thanks.
Booty obviously never spoke with Robert Davis. Three years ago Davis, who broke the Alabama career rushing record at Homewood High, just south of Birmingham, was coveted by LSU for the same reason Booty is today: To restore Tiger football to its glory days. "LSU did the best job of recruiting me," says Davis. "At the time I thought that [LSU coach] Curley Hallman and his staff were really down-to-earth people, and they were."
Today Davis, who's a sophomore, is Homewood-bound, having recently become the first full-scholarship athlete in the three-year history of Alabama-Birmingham's football program. At LSU, Davis was a tailback on the USA Today Fabulous Freshman team of 1992. But last fall he began in third place on the Tiger depth chart. Why the drop in status. Davis wondered. Yes, he was on academic probation, and he had missed a few days at his summer job at Pearson's Luggage in Baton Rouge, but what did that have to do with his ability on the field?
"Our other backs simply were performing better," says Hallman. "Robert was going through a maturing process."
"Mind games," says Davis, who describes the coaching stall in Baton Rouge as something like the Khmer Rouge. "Room inspections, getting us up at 5 a.m. for practices; we even had one drill where we had to wrestle each other. LSU will never win a national championship as long as Coach Hallman is there. That military crap doesn't work anymore."
Hallman has a decidedly less scatological term for his regimen. "We call it I he Daily Must," he says. "You must be solid daily in the academic, athletic and social areas of your life. I'm disappointed that Robert wanted to leave."
For Davis, Alabama-Birmingham and its home stadium, Legion Field, where he last played as an 11-year-old in the same backfield with David Palmer, give him an opportunity to come home and make things right. "Leaving LSU is the best thing I could have done," he says.
For Booty, going to LSU is the next chapter of the legend. "Deep in my heart I knew that I wanted to help bring LSU football a national title," says Booty. "Staying in Louisiana was the best thing I could have done for myself."
The only national championship more mythical than the one Florida State won last month is the one that Tennessee garnered last week. The Volunteers, who signed two first-team USA Today All-Americas (wide receiver Marcus Nash and offensive lineman Jarvis Reado) and two of SuperPrep magazine's top five quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Branndon Stewart), have the best recruiting class of '94. Florida State, boosted by commitments from linebacker Lamont Green and safety Robert Hammond. USA Today's top defensive player and SuperPrep's top defensive back, respectively, had to settle for a close second.
Before you begin your forearm-bash frenzy, Vols and 'Noles. answer this question: What do Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts, Alabama cornerback Antonio Langham, Texas Tech running back Bam Morris, Notre Dame tackle Aaron Taylor, Arizona noseguard Rob Waldrop and Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward have in common? Correct: Each won a major postseason award in '93—Alberts, the Butkus; Langham, the Thorpe: Morris, the Doak Walker: Taylor, the Lombardi; Waldrop, the Outland; and Ward, the Heisman.
Very good. Anything else? Chew on this: As high school seniors, none of the above made Parade magazine's All-America list. Only one, Taylor, was named a SuperPrep All-America. In 1988, SuperPrep profiled 362 high school seniors but somehow omitted Ward.
An aberration, you say? Since its inception in 1985-86, SuperPrep has listed 1,553 All-Americas. Not one among that army of gridders has gone on to take the podium at the Downtown Athletic Club. Not one of the last 11 Heisman winners was a Parade All-America, either. In fact, of the 100 college players who have been named Associated Press All-Americas this decade, only 17 were Parade All-Americas.
"It just amazes me how much stock people put into all of this." says Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, whose bluest of blue-chip recruits in 1991, Marquette Smith, USA Today's offensive player of the year, recently transferred to Division I-AA Central Florida. "I just don't get it."
In the last seven years, nobody has outrecruited Florida State, and the Seminoles have finished no lower than fourth in the final polls. But what is so great about State, and Tallahassee? As one longtime follower of the Seminoles says, "It's basically Long Beach State with a football stadium."
So what is so great about Florida State? Among other things, having the coeds of Florida A&M, a traditionally black school, about two miles away. That holds out the prospect of a rich social life for black Seminole players. "It's a great school, and we're proud of the way we get along with them," Bowden says of A&M. "But to be honest, I didn't realize how much it meant to our recruits."
He Ain't Irish, Either
You may recall that last season's Notre Dame quarterback, Kevin McDougal, sure didn't look Irish. Not that anyone said much about it. So why all the fuss over Gus?
Gus is Gus Ornstein, a 6'5", 205-pound quarterback from Tenafly, N.J., who, since confirming that he will attend Notre Dame this fall, has resurrected the lost art of Jewish press quippings. "The media's preoccupation with our faith has been a revelation," says Ornstein's father, Steve, displaying a Chicago Sun-Times headline that reads JEWISH QB COMMITS TO NOTRE DAME. The South Bend Tribune said that if Gus's story were filmed as a sequel to Rudy, it would be called Reuben. And what of the reporter from New York's WNBC-TV? He asked if "Win one for the Clipper" would undergo a conversion to "Win one before Yom Kippur."
Oy vay! "We never even thought much about the fact that Notre Dame is a Catholic school," says Gus, a Reform Jew who boasts a 3.8 GPA at Fieldston, a prep school in New York City. "And Coach [Lou] Holtz told me that only 40 percent of the team is Catholic, anyway."
Unlike Ron Powlus, USA Today's 1992 offensive player of the year, Ornstein is not expected to step in immediately as the school's savior at quarterback. In fact, he is more likely to be the second coming of last year's backup, Paul Failla, who also plays shortstop for the Irish. Ornstein is a gifted switch-hitting first baseman who will likely start in the Irish infield.
Anyway, Ornstein is hardly the first non-gentile giant to find refuge on campus. In front of the school's main library is an 18-foot-high bronze statue known as We're No. 1 Moses. "And," says Holtz, "if you look at the lady on top of the Golden Dome, she's 100 percent Jewish."
Linebacker Dwayne Rudd, from Batesville, Miss., was in Memphis on Jan. 24 listening to VolCalls, a weekly radio program broadcast throughout Tennessee, when he heard a recruiting guru mention his name. Rudd called the program and committed to the Vols on the air. The next evening he phoned a call-in show in Nashville to commit to Tennessee again. Last week Rudd signed with Alabama....
To entice All-America running back George Lombard to stay at home in Atlanta and attend Georgia Tech, coach Bill Lewis drafted and signed a document guaranteeing Lombard a chance to start in Tech's first game of '94—against Arizona, which led the nation in rushing defense last year. Lombard chose Tech....
From the home office in Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers recruiting coordinator Marty Barrett sends prospects a Top 10 List of Reasons to Choose Rutgers. Among them are, No. 3: Coach [Mark] Deal's wife makes great-tasting brownies after every win, and No. 7: The coeds all look like Cindy Crawford or Whitney Houston. Barrett should add, No. 11: Bryan Fortay couldn't crack our lineup, either.
BEN VAN HOOK
Booty (above) and Davis could not be happier with their very different decisions regarding LSU.
[See caption above.]
Manning is just one reason that Tennessee hit the jackpot in this year's battle for blue chips.