Plenty of players are students of the game, but Lorenzo Booker was the rare elementary school student of football. ‚ÄúI wanted to learn the right way to play ever since I could pick up a ball,‚Äù says the sophomore tailback. ‚ÄúSo when I was 11 years old, it was three sets of pushups before bed, and later it was film study of college and pro games after homework. I did it because nobody else did. I wanted to be great.‚Äù
At St. Bonaventure High in 2001, Booker was rewarded with a 2,878-yard, 50-TD senior season and a scholarship to Florida State. But after he sprained a knee ligament two weeks into last season and then missed three games, his desire began to wane. Like starter Greg Jones, who was recovering from a November 2002 ACL tear, and Jones‚Äôs backup, Leon Washington, who missed four of the first five games of ‚Äô03 with a dislocated elbow, Booker played through pain even after he was cleared to compete. In losses to Miami and Clemson, the gimpy threesome totaled only 60 rushing yards. ‚ÄúWe never got a chance to get rolling,‚Äù says Booker. ‚ÄúI remember my cousin telling me around the Miami game, ‚ÄòYou never talk football, you never watch film. What‚Äôs wrong with you?‚Äô I was already looking ahead to a new year.‚Äù
Now Booker is getting the fresh start he was hoping for. With Jones gone to the NFL and Washington recovering from ankle surgery, Booker‚Äôs nifty runs were the highlight of the spring. Coordinator Jeff Bowden says he‚Äôll keep opposing defenses on their heels by platooning the two players as much as possible. ‚ÄúLeon is stocky and physical, and Lorenzo is more of a slasher who‚Äôll make you miss, and they both have incredible speed,‚Äù says Bowden.
Creating more plays for the backs will be a priority, says Bowden, because even in an offense that features senior quarterback Chris Rix and a veteran line and receiving corps, Booker and Washington ‚Äúcould be our two biggest talents.‚Äù
Booker doesn‚Äôt mind sharing the stage, especially if it cuts the risk of another injury-plagued season at tailback. ‚ÄúI just want Florida State‚Äôs running game to be back where it ought to be,‚Äù says Booker. ‚ÄúAll off-season I‚Äôve kept thinking that I wished we were playing Miami tomorrow.‚Äù --K.K.
2003 RECORD 10‚Äì3 (7‚Äì1, 1ST IN ACC)
FINAL AP RANK 11
RETURNING STARTERS 13
KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)
QB CHRIS RIX (SR.)
First Bowden QB to start four years at FSU
WR CRAPHONSO THORPE (JR.)
ACC track champ had 994 receiving yards
DE ERIC MOORE (SR.)
Led team with 71‚ÅÑ2 sacks; added 15 QB hurries
T ALEX BARRON (SR.)
First-team All-America last year
CB BRYANT MCFADDEN (JR.)
Standout cover corner had nine breakups
Passing yards needed by Chris Rix to overtake his predecessor, Chris Weinke, as the alltime leader in Seminoles history.
Tallahassee rejoiced in ‚Äô03 when linebacker Ernie Sims followed his dad, a former fullback and linebacker, and mom, a former track star, to Florida State. Now the rest of the nation will see what the fuss was about. A special teams standout as a freshman, Sims plays bigger than his 6 feet, 220 pounds, and his monster hits made him spring ball MVP.
Sept. 6 at Miami
Oct. 2 NORTH CAROLINA
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†9 at Syracuse
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†23 at Wake Forest
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†30 at Maryland
Nov. 6 DUKE
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†11 at N.C. State
Booker has been preparing since childhood for his dream role: carrying the ball for Florida State.