Plenty of players are students of the game, but Lorenzo Booker was the rare elementary school student of football. ?I wanted to learn the right way to play ever since I could pick up a ball,? says the sophomore tailback. ?So 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.?
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?s backup, Leon Washington, who missed four of the first five games of ?03 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. ?We never got a chance to get rolling,? says Booker. ?I remember my cousin telling me around the Miami game, ?You never talk football, you never watch film. What?s wrong with you?? I was already looking ahead to a new year.?
Now Booker is getting the fresh start he was hoping for. With Jones gone to the NFL and Washington recovering from ankle surgery, Booker?s nifty runs were the highlight of the spring. Coordinator Jeff Bowden says he?ll keep opposing defenses on their heels by platooning the two players as much as possible. ?Leon is stocky and physical, and Lorenzo is more of a slasher who?ll make you miss, and they both have incredible speed,? 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 ?could be our two biggest talents.?
Booker doesn?t mind sharing the stage, especially if it cuts the risk of another injury-plagued season at tailback. ?I just want Florida State?s running game to be back where it ought to be,? says Booker. ?All off-season I?ve kept thinking that I wished we were playing Miami tomorrow.? --K.K.