Johnson plans to play football each fall, participate in spring practice and then report to the Devil Rays for May, June and July. Last year in the Gulf Coast rookie league he hit .231 in 28 games and struck out 41 times in 108 at bats. This summer he is expected to join the Class A Charleston River Dogs of the South Atlantic League. "If he was to devote himself full time to our sport, he could be an impact player on the major league level," says LaMar.
This is what the two Dougs expect under their current two-sport approach: "The train is on the tracks," says the father. "Looking down the road, some people are going to want his services in both sports. We're going to see how bad they want him."
Even now, there is a subtle tug-of-war. Spurrier, who is so enamored of Johnson's talent that he is tolerating the two-sport arrangement, says, "He's promised me he'll bring along some footballs and some film this summer." But LaMar says, "When Doug is with us, we expect 100 percent of his attention to be focused on advancing himself as a baseball player."
Johnson, meanwhile, has moved into a Gainesville apartment with his best friend, Beau Crevasse, a 20-year-old seafood wholesaler and, by all accounts, a superb cook. The two often tow Johnson's new 20-foot fishing boat behind his 1997 GMC Yukon with the SLINGER vanity plates to the Gulf Coast, where they fish the shallow ocean flats. Both toys are courtesy of the Devil Rays' bonus. Life is sweet.
No quarterback has similarly "arrived" at Florida State, where competition for the starting job raged until the end of spring practice last Saturday. Busby got a big push from third-year sophomore Dan Kendra, a high school All-America from Bethlehem, Pa., who was previously best known for his 11th-hour switch from Penn State to Florida State (SI, Nov. 21, 1994, et. seq). Now Kendra is known as the Lou Ferrigno of quarterbacks: He's a 6'1", 250-pound nutrition freak who eats six meals a day and prepares all of them himself. ("They don't feed us very well around here," he says. "You can kill all the nutritional value of food by the way you cook it.") Kendra has a vertical leap of 40.5 inches and once leg-pressed 1,335 pounds, a record for a Seminoles football player, though the effort burst blood vessels in his eyes.
Ready to chase Kendra and Busby is Chris Weinke, who arrived in Tallahassee in January after seven years as a minor league first baseman in the Toronto Blue Jays' organization. Weinke plateaued at Class AAA, where he hit just .186 last summer. He will be 25 when the football season begins, and, accordingly, his teammates call him Paul Blake, after the graybeard college quarterback played by Scott Bakula in the film Necessary Roughness. But the Seminoles coaches have been impressed by Weinke's retention of the skills that put him on the wish list of every pass-happy school in the winter of 1990. "Weinke is a quick learner and a mature guy, and I wouldn't be shocked if he came in here in August and made a real run for the job," says offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Richt, who is quick to add, "Kendra could be an unbelievable quarterback."
If you expect to read that all this coachly frothing over Kendra and Weinke has left Busby despondent, forget it. True, Bowden and Richt didn't think Busby was consistent enough a year ago, and, true, Busby was criticized by Seminoles fans and the local media for not quite living up to the standards of former Florida State quarterbacks Charlie Ward and Danny Kanell. Busby, a small-town guy from Pace, Fla. (pop. 6,277), just outside Pensacola—Bowden calls him Ole Buzz, as if he were 72 and not 22—was unhinged by the sudden status of being the Seminoles' starting quarterback. "It was way more pressure than I imagined," he said last week. But Ward and Kanell were both better as seniors than as juniors, and Busby expects the same of himself. Plus, he has been given a shove, a tragic one, toward maturity.
On Easter Sunday, 20-year-old Kevin Land, Busby's roommate and a lifelong friend from Pace, died after suffering head injuries sustained two days earlier when the car in which he was a passenger was struck by a tractor trailer. Land's death found nerve endings in Busby that he didn't know existed.
On the following Wednesday, Busby was an honorary pallbearer at Land's funeral. "It was about the hardest thing I've been through," he says of his friend's death. Busby returned to Tallahassee two days later and had to walk through Land's bedroom to reach his own. "All his stuff was still there, like he was just in the room," says Busby. "Here I was trying to concentrate on spring practice, and something like that changes everything. I'm going to try to play for him next year, be thinking about him every week."
After completing eight of 20 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the heavy rain that drenched last Saturday's spring game, Busby knows he will head into summer drills as Florida State's starter. His cause was helped by the fact that Weinke went 5 for 18 for 36 yards and a touchdown, and Kendra 3 for 11 for 54 yards. "I think, yes, definitely, he's our Number 1 quarterback," Bowden said of Busby. "I just want him to be more consistent."