Top college football players often bolt early for the NFL, but we haven't seen anyone quite as precocious as Louisiana's Evangel Christian Academy quarterback John David Booty: He's skipping his senior year of high school to attend USC this fall.
John David, who committed to USC last month after also being recruited by Texas, Michigan, Tennessee and LSU, had been set to spend next semester trying to win a third straight 5A state championship before graduating this December. He'd planned to go to USC in January to get a jump on spring practice. But two weeks ago his father, Johnny Booty, was fired as Evangel's quarterbacks coach. Chancellor Denny Duron told The Times of Shreveport that the dismissal was because of "a ministry matter."
At Evangel football is as interwoven with religion as are the laces on a ball. The school of 600 students is run by Shreveport's First Assembly of God church and has won seven state championships since it opened, in 1989. Johnny has been the quarterbacks coach from the start and has had the all-state signal-caller for 11 straight years. That run started with his eldest son, Josh, who went on to play at LSU and is now a backup with the Browns. Last year John David passed for 3,956 yards and 37 touchdowns in 15 games. He's widely considered the best high school quarterback in the country.
Johnny's problems with Duron began at First Assembly, where Duron—Evangel's founder and first head football coach—is senior pastor. Johnny, 49, a former all-state quarterback at Shreveport's Woodlawn High, had been a minister at the church for 15 years but lately had been leading home Bible study. "I feel my calling is to get people back into their homes, because [church] activity can interfere with family life," Booty says. "I guess Denny feels that's a conflict of interest. I don't know what that has to do with coaching." Duron could not be reached for comment
After Johnny was let go—he also lost his job as Evangel's head of school—John David, who is 18 and one course shy of graduation, enrolled in a summer English course. When he completes it, he'll be eligible as a college freshman. With no clear-cut successor to Heisman Trophy-winner Carson Palmer, John David hopes to get playing time right away. "I don't want people to think I'm doing this just to do it," he says. "I had every intention of finishing my high school career until this came up with my dad."