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In his mother's car now, parked outside Duron Field, Booty turned in his seat and had a look back, to see if anyone had spotted him. "I guess I've learned how to block out what happened," he said. "But there were so many days and nights when I was really confused by it. I didn't get my senior year, you know? Something I'd looked forward to forever."
John David put the car in drive. No one on the Evangel campus seemed to have noticed Booty until he was close to completing his loop around the school grounds. A group of boys stopped and watched him drive by, and one suddenly offered an enthusiastic wave. Booty pointed his index finger at the boy, then punched the accelerator, splashing through a puddle.
"You want to know something else?" he said. "I still love the Durons. If it wasn't for the Durons, I don't know where we'd be now--my dad, me, my whole family."
it was still raining the next day when Johnny Booty, fresh from leading a men's prayer group, went on his own driving tour of Shreveport. The Booty name is an anglicized treatment of the French name "Boutte," and Johnny says he was never teased about it until the disco era came along and KC and the Sunshine Band released the dance hit (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty. Whenever one of his sons complained about being teased, Johnny had him pull out the dictionary and look up the word. "Booty is treasure," he told them. "It's treasure taken in battle. Remember that if anybody tries to tell you otherwise."
Johnny grew up in the Cedar Grove neighborhood of Shreveport, then a working-class district famous for producing quality athletes, now impoverished and crime-ridden. As he drove its wet streets, Johnny pointed to blighted houses and named former football stars who once had lived in them. Johnny's father moved his family to six or seven different rental houses while Johnny and his two siblings were growing up. Johnny stopped in front of one of them. "I'd prop a mirror against that house there and practice my five- and seven-step drops," he said. "I wanted to play pro football. That was going to be my life."
He stopped in front of another small, dilapidated house. Warped sheets of plywood had been nailed over the windows; a blue tarpaulin covered a portion of the roof. "Lived here too," he said.
He drove farther on and then pulled to the curb in front of an empty lot. "Used to be one of our houses here too," he said.
All that moving fed Johnny's dream of one day owning his own home. Cedar Grove lay adjacent to an affluent district called Fairfield, where the houses were large, beautiful and meticulously maintained. Johnny believed his football talents would be the ticket to a life in such a place. But after following Bradshaw and Ferguson at Woodlawn, and playing just as well as they had, Johnny couldn't find a college program that appreciated what he had to offer. This was 1971 and teams were abandoning the pass for veer and wishbone offenses, and no one would let him throw the ball. He bounced from Arkansas to Louisiana Tech and finally to Mississippi State before dropping out of school after his junior year and starting a ministry in Starkville, Miss.
Johnny often says he was blessed to have married a woman who didn't care much for material things. For years he and Sonya had no choice but to go without--Johnny made the frames for the boys' beds; he found a picnic table and put a sheet of plywood on top and used it as the family dining table. Their homes were comfortable but modest, at least until 1994 when their eldest son, Josh, then 19, received a $1.6 million bonus from the Florida Marlins, who'd selected him fifth overall in the amateur draft.
Josh told his parents the first thing he wanted to do with his bonus check was to buy them a house. He financed the construction of the spacious brick home near Evangel where John David spent much of his childhood.