Around the country, Booty's saga has caused two-sport stars to take note. Each kid has to wonder, as he looks at that long line of zeroes on the baseball bonus check, if he would miss football enough to give all that money back. Some guys don't want to take that chance. Two years ago Texas running back Ricky Williams was drafted out of high school in the eighth round by the Philadelphia Phillies, who offered him a $115,000 bonus package on the condition that he give up football. He refused, and then accepted the Phils' offer of $50,000 to play minor league ball while school was out. He also received $64,000 toward his education. "They tried to sweeten the deal," says Williams of the Phillies. "They asked me, 'How much will it take?' I told them there's no way I'm not going to Texas."
Williams has since been dubbed Little Earl by Texas fans who say he reminds them of pro football Hall of Famer and former Longhorn Earl Campbell. "One kid told me he liked baseball, but football just gets in your blood," says Texas's Dahlquist. "There is nothing like running into Texas's stadium on Saturday afternoon with 77,000 people cheering for you. It's a feeling money can't buy."
It's a feeling Darnell McDonald will experience if he sticks with his plan to attend Texas and play both sports. His performance for the Cherry Creek High football team reads like a misprint: In leading the Bruins to state titles in three straight years, he rushed for 6,121 yards and scored 83 touchdowns, including 333 yards and five TDs in the 1996 state championship game. Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel coveted home-state hero Darnell, who had made one thing clear to the army of college recruiters early on: He had no intention of giving up baseball. That eliminated Colorado, which dropped baseball 17 years ago.
Darnell narrowed his list to two schools, UCLA and Texas, both of which promised him the chance to play baseball and football. He gave Longhorns coach John Mackovic an oral commitment in late January, but they both understood nothing would be settled until June. One big decision down, a bigger one to go. "I can't make a bad choice," Darnell says. "All my options look pretty good to me."
Darnell insists that he loves both sports equally. His father, Donzell, played football at Colorado State and spent two years as an outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization after being drafted in the sixth round and receiving a $15,000 bonus in 1969. His brother Donzell II is a center-fielder in the New York Yankees' farm system. Dad also is a Merrill Lynch bookkeeper who knows everything has its price, including his son's love of football. "Whichever team drafts him will have to understand: Giving up a chance to go to college and play football is an unbelievable sacrifice," says the elder Donzell. "He's not going to sign just so he can say he got a million dollars. It's got to be a special situation."
For a kid with Darnell's ability, there appears to be no other kind.