By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU quarterback Josh Booty. He grew up in Shreveport, LA and played football, baseball, and basketball at Evangel Christian Academy.
As quarterback for the football team, he threw for 11,700 yards and 126 touchdowns, becoming the first high school player in history to throw for more than 10,000 yards, (despite missing four games of his senior year because of a broken hand). Booty was named the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year and was named the National High School Player of the Year by at least six associations, including Parade and the Football News.
As a shortstop for the baseball team, he was a four-time All-State choice at shortstop. As a senior, he batted .429 with 20 intentional walks, 25 stolen bases, and 12 home runs in 70 at bats. He was the starting shortstop for the U.S. Junior Olympic National Team that won the silver medal. He was a USA Today All-American shortstop. Booty won a silver medal in the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival. He was the 5th pick overall in the 1994 MLB draft by the Florida Marlins. Highly recruited by major college football programs from across the country, he would sign to play football and baseball at LSU. However, once the MLB draft happened, Booty decided to sign with the Marlins for a then-record $1.6 million signing bonus.
After five seasons playing baseball, (which included winning the World Series with the Marlins), Booty began to miss football and decided to fulfill his dream of playing in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night.
He would play for LSU for two seasons before moving on to play for both Seattle, Cleveland, and Oakland in the NFL. Booty would then retire in 2007.
Q - What is your Favorite TV Show?
Josh - Peaky Blinders
Q - What is your Favorite Food?
Josh - Boiled Crawfish
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Josh - Tiger Woods
Q - Your Favorite Music Artist?
Josh - That's a tough one.. I'd have to say, George Straight
Q - Your Favorite Movie?
Josh - All of the Indiana Jones movies
Q - Who is your Favorite Actor?
Josh - Harrison Ford
Q - Your Favorite Sports Team?
Josh - The Los Angeles Lakers when I was growing up and I've loved following the New England Patriots through the past few years with Belichick and Brady. Ever since I played against those guys in the NFL and watched how they did it. They were like a well-oiled machine. I just admire how they do things.
Q - I see you were born in Starkville, Mississippi? How long did you live there and when did you move to Shreveport?
Josh - Yes, my dad was a quarterback at Mississippi State. He was finishing up there when I was born. When I was in 2nd grade we moved back to Shreveport where they grew up. Both my mom and dad went to Woodlawn High School in Shreveport. That's where Terry Bradshaw, Joe Ferguson, and Robert Parrish went. My dad graduated with Robert Parrish. My dad was an All-State, All-American quarterback. He had signed with Arkansas and then transferred to Mississippi State after his freshman year. While I'd Arkansas they lost their entire coaching staff to the NFL. The new staff wanted to run the football and installed the wishbone. My dad was a passing quarterback and wanted to go somewhere where they threw the football, so he transferred out.
But yes, until I graduated high school and signed to play pro baseball when I was 18 or 19, I lived in Shreveport the entire time.
Q - When you were a little boy what did you want to be when you grew up?
Josh - I wanted to grow up to be John Elway.. He played both football and baseball. Two sports athletes were always my favorite, like Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, and John Elway.
Q - We know that you played football and baseball in high school. Did you play any other sport?
Josh - I played basketball. I was the starting point guard during my freshman and sophomore year on the high school team. In my junior year I quit playing basketball. My dad wanted me to focus mainly on football and baseball. He just thought that was the smartest thing to do.
Q - Tell us how it felt to be a part of helping build and playing for a school with such a winning program?
Josh - My senior year was the first state championship that Evangel ever won. My freshman year we didn't make the playoffs. Sophomore and junior year we won District and made it to the quarterfinals where we lost to Oak Grove both years. Oak Grove went on to win the title both of those years in “1A”. They were a very strong football team.
The deal was we were doing it different. We were throwing the football. We were in a 9-yard deep shotgun. We were running no-huddle, with four and five wide receiver sets. That's why we broke State and National records and started to get a lot of publicity. While everyone else was running it in the early 90s like Haynesville, Oak Grove, and West Monroe, we were throwing it and no one could cover us. We just started to break all kind of records.
We were doing stuff that no one else had ever done. That's what put Evangel on the map. Kids started watching how we played and fell in love with how we were getting everyone the ball and everybody was in the paper. There was a lot of media hype around what I was able to accomplish. To be honest with you, with all that stuff going on and with me being the number one recruit in the Country, people started noticing Evangel. We definitely put them on the map.
Q - With all of the success Evangel was having with football, I'm guessing baseball was working out the same way?
Josh - Yea, it was good. Not as many people get into High School baseball the way they do with football. I had a great High School coach and we were good. Personally I enjoyed baseball more than football until my senior year just because we probably had more success. We were always in the playoffs and I was All-State for 4 years in a row at shortstop, which I was loving. For me that was really cool to be All-State every year as a high school player. I got to play a lot early at Evangel because the school was so new and I was the guy. I was the shortstop and the quarterback, so I would get all the reps. So I had four years of football and four years of baseball. Not many kids get to start in both sports for four years. I was very fortunate.
Q - I see that you were a part of a Junior Olympics Baseball Team. How did you get involved with that?
Josh - After my junior year I got invited to participate in the Junior Olympics. During the odd number years, when the Olympics aren't happening, they hold the Junior Olympics.
They call it the Olympic Festival. Everyone competes in Olympic style games. So I played in the Olympics Festival. It’s broken down by North, South, East, and West. I made the USA team based on that Olympic Festival.
Then we went and played the World Games which is basically played all over the globe. We played China, Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic. So we really got to travel and play. We got beat by Cuba in the gold-medal game.
It's a funny story but we had seven first round draft picks on our USA team as seniors in high school. Alex Rodriguez batting third, I batted fourth. We had gone undefeated until Cuba beat us 4-1 in that final game for the gold medal in Canada. The pitcher for Cuba ended up being my teammate a year later with the Marlins. Livan Hernandez. He struck out 17 of us. Paul Konerko hit a solo home run (of course he hit 500 homers in the Big Leagues), Paul was batting fifth in the lineup and that solo home run was the only hit that Hernandez gave up that day in the game. It was a nasty. Three years later he was the MVP of the World Series against the Indians. So we didn't feel so bad after that.
Q - What was your recruiting process like?
Josh - I took my 5 official visits and I narrowed them down in my mind. These places were good baseball and good football schools at a high level. Like LSU baseball was at the very top, Skip Bertman, national championships. I waned to play short stop at LSU.
Todd Walker was like a big brother to me. He was LSU's second baseman at the time and he grew up in my area and he and I became very close. His grandparents lived right across the street from us, I grew up with Todd, watching Todd, playing with him or against him. He was a couple of years older than me but he had so much success early at LSU it made me want to go and play baseball at Alex Box.
Skip Bertman was so amazing to me in his recruiting process. He would tell me, “Whatever you want, full scholarship, shortstop, freshman year, you're here you're our guy.” I did take five visits. I went to Miami when Dennis Erickson was there. I went to Stanford when Bill Walsh was there. I went to Texas, Gustafson was there on the baseball side and John Mackovic was there on the football side. Then I went to Mississippi State to visit with good friends Jackie Sherrill and Ron Polk. So those were my top five.
So I signed on a football scholarship and was going to play baseball as well and I did that during my senior year of football before baseball really even started. So I was going to LSU before my spring baseball even started which was a plus so I can get that out of the way and focus on football so I could have a great season and try to get drafted high. Then make a decision on whether to go pro or go to college.
Q - Where were you when you heard that the Marlins' drafted you 5th overall?
Josh - I was at my house. My agent Jeff Moorad, who is the super agent. Leigh Steinberg and Jeff Moorad, they are super famous. The movie Jerry McQuire is based on Leigh. So these guys were the top guys. They had Will Clark they had Matt Williams they had Manny Ramirez. They had Troy Aikman, Steve Young. They have all these guys. They were the top agents in the world. So I've decided to go with them because they had both baseball and football clients. It felt like a good fit and Moorad the baseball guy became like a big brother to me and he said, “We can get you positioned with the Marlins at five because they are a new franchise and they have Wayne Hysinga, their late owner who was a very very wealthy businessman. He started Blockbuster, Waste Management, and Virgin Records. So we knew if I got drafted fifth they would pay me more than the teams who are drafting before them. I said to myself if I can get the record then I would go. Moorad said that he thinks he could get that from Florida, but I would have to sign a no-football clause in my contract. I said, “Well if they'll sign me for more money/signing bonus then anyone has ever signed for in the history of the draft, then I'll go.“ I probably could have gone maybe in the top 4 to a smaller market ball club, but Moorad said that I wasn't going to sign and would go to LSU to play football if I didn't get signed to the biggest contract ever. That's how that all happened.
So I ended up with the Marlins at five, but I knew I was going to get picked by them. I had a real good feeling when they told me that they were going to draft me at five and we will pay you what you want.
Q - Please tell us about your history with the Marlins and why you decided to leave to play football for LSU?
Josh - Yeah that's a long story but I'll keep it quick. It was for four years. I did the single A, double A, triple A, the big leagues. I had call ups in my contract which was nice.
So I was in the big leagues at age 20. I was on the 1997 World Series team as a bench player and got a ring.
In 1998 I started on opening day at third base for Jim Leyland. I got hurt about a month into the season and got sent down to Triple-A. I struggled like crazy trying to hit the curve ball. All during that time I played great defense and was named ‘Minor League Defensive Player of the Year’ but struck out a ton. I was a home run hitter. I was all or nothing. I wanted to be back in the Big Leagues and didn't like the Minors.
I began to miss football and my brother Abram was at LSU. Quick story, in 1997 we won the World Series. A week later I leave Miami and drive to Baton Rouge to watch LSU upset #1 Florida in the game that the goal post came down. Abram had over a hundred yards receiving in the game against Spurrier and that defense that Florida had. I said, "This is better than the World Series. This is insane in Tiger Stadium.” … I just felt like I had to come back and play. I wanted it so badly. I wanted to play with my brother. I missed Louisiana and I missed football.
So the Marlins took me off the 40 at the end of ‘98 and told me I would start in Triple-A again. I told them “no” that I was going back to play football. So Moorad helped get me out of my contract for a Triple A salary.
I was ready to go back and play football to see if I liked it. I told myself I was going to take it one year at a time to see if I liked it. The first year I went back to LSU Gerry Dinardo was the head coach, Bob McConnell was the offensive coordinator, and Lou Tepper was the defensive coordinator. It was a struggle of a lifetime But it was fun just getting back into football.
Q - Can you tell us a little bit about Coach DiNardo?
Josh - I like the DiNardo as a person. I thought that because we struggled and I had come in and there was a lot of hype around my situation. To be honest with you, he wasn't real sure how to handle it. We had other quarterbacks on the roster. I think the fans really wanted me to play. Tough situation for him with me being out for four years. My football background was shotgun, four and five wide outs, no huddle.
At LSU they would line up in I-formation, have double tight ends, had me under center. Run, run, play action, it just wasn't my game. It was very tough for me to adjust to that style of football. It just wasn't what I grew up doing.
Tim Couch had the same situation. Tim is a great friend of mine. We played in the NFL together in Cleveland. Well Tim played at Kentucky and they had a run first team. That coach got fired and Kentucky hired Hal Mumme which lead to Tim Couch becoming the first pick in the NFL draft, because they went with four and five wide outs, shotgun with a wide-open passing offense. Hal Mumme’s Air Raid Attack.
You're only as good as your system, your coaching, and the players that you have around you. There was nothing I could really do to be honest with you, other than just try to make plays out of nothing. We just didn't have much going on and like I said it was the biggest struggle ever. It was a struggle, but man, it was a fun struggle. It will make you tough. It made me tough.
Q - How did you and the team handle the coaching change after DiNardo was fired and LSU brought in Nick Saban?
Josh - We actually were all happy. We just struggled so much and we knew that are coaching staff wasn't as good as it should be. We never felt prepared to be honest with you. We worked hard but not smart, like not watching game film. We really needed an upgrade. I felt like we needed a coaching upgrade and I feel like everyone on the team felt the same way. We just needed to bring it into the new Century.
Then Chancellor Emmert who is now head of the NCAA said that LSU was going to hire Nick Saban. We knew Nick was coming from Michigan State. He brought in Jimbo Fisher which was huge for me because Jimbo liked to toss it around a little more. He would get me in the shotgun more with three wides and two backs, we did a lot of that. He would utilize the tight end more in the passing game. Robert Royal was my tight end who really stepped his game up. Josh Reed, I talked him into playing wide receiver which was huge because he was a running back who wasn't getting any playing time and he blew up and won the Biletnikoff Award.
Then Saban started recruiting Devery Henderson, Corey Webster, Bradie James, Trev Faulk, guys who could really play. They were all young but we had talent now. Jimbo would call plays that would give us a fighting chance. We still struggle that times, but we ended up 8-3. There was some tough games in there for me like the UAB game. We did beat Alabama at home that year for the first time in like 28 years, that was big. We ended up running off five straight SEC games in a row.
My last game that year was in the Peach Bowl. It was tough because we had a real rough first half. I was sacked a bunch. Then Saban pulled me and put in Rohan Davey. Rohan had a good second half and we ended up winning the game. Jimbo started calling quick throws so the sacks would stop happening. Josh Reed went off on a couple of real nice plays, taking one quick slant to the house. We really looked good. That was kind of the end of it for me at LSU because I was 25 years old at that point, so I felt it was just time to see if I could go to the NFL at that point. I just felt like I didn’t want to be in college another year at 26 years old.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Coach Saban?
Josh - He was military. He was by the book. No nonsense. He had a personality one-on-one you could talk to him and really engaged in a back and forth conversation. I really never had that with Gerry DiNardo. With Saban it seemed like there was a lot more that was factual, he would just tell you like it is. Gerry was not a bad dude at all, he just got overwhelmed that last year. We were so bad that I just didn't get to spend a lot of time with him. With Saban it seemed like we were game planning. We were really game planning. We would all sit, order pizza, watch game film. He understood how to coach us. It was like, now we're getting somewhere. Now we were watching film on a different level and actually learning from watching film. We really didn't watch film with DiNardo, we just didn't spend a lot of time watching film. Jimbo would come in there and teach the reads and who we were playing and what they were good at and what they were bad at. Basic one-on-one probably, we just hadn't had any of that. So basically we got our upgrade. Boy were we happy. The biggest thing that ever happened to LSU was when Chancellor Emmert brought Nick Saban in when I was there. It gave LSU the opportunity to have a real good football program. Saban hired well. He built the facilities. He recruited his butt off. Now fast forward it 20 years and the second biggest thing that ever happened at LSU was opening up the offense so our athletes could make plays in space like they did last year. It all Dominoed off of Saban. He helped put LSU back on the map.
Q - Can you tell us about any favorite game or moment that you had as a LSU football player?
Josh - It was just seeing us going from being poor as a team to really having some life and some energy around the program.
Tommy Moffitt was another huge piece of LSU's success over all of these years having him there with his strength and conditioning program. I show me took pride in all that stuff. I knew they had to make big steps and they did.
Saban and Jimbo were awesome. just seeing everything start to transform right before my eyes. I knew I wasn't going to be on a national championship team or the really good that was going to come out of it, but just seeing it going from whatever it was to a business-like approach. It just simply had to happen.
Q - So you decide to enter the NFL draft. Could you tell us how that process happened for you?
Josh - Mike Holmgren drafted me in the sixth round. I really thought I was going to go in the third round. Jerry Jones had called me the night before and told me they were going to draft me in the third round. Then as I was watching they drafted Quincy Carter out of Georgia actually, so then I knew I wasn’t going to Dallas in the third.
I just kind of trickled down and ended up getting drafted in the six round. It was tough to swallow really, but I did get drafted. I had been drafted high in baseball so I have seen both. I’ve seen getting draft really early and then having to wait around and get drafted late, so I can relate to everyone who has ever been drafted.
It was tough sitting around, but it was cool because Seattle had a great group of guys. I went through camp with Matt Hasselbeck and Trent Dilfer and Seattle had a great franchise.
I ended up getting picked up by Cleveland off of the Seattle practice squad. I was with the Browns for two and a half years with Butch Davis, we have a great staff. In 2002 was the last time Cleveland had been to the playoffs and that happened during my second season there.
A couple of years later I went to camp with the Raiders the year JaMarcus got drafted and Al Davis was still alive, which was cool. I was backing up there in camp and got released two weeks before the season started because JaMarcus really wasn't ready to play and Al Davis freaked out and wanted to bring in Daunte Culpepper. So Daunte came in, they released me and that was the end of my football career. I enjoyed my time in the NFL.
At that point I went and worked with my agent some. My brother was playing at USC, so I was staying around football. Then he made it to the NFL for a couple of years backing up, so I watched him a little bit. Then my dad was coaching at Calvary so I spent some time there.
I won a sports reality show on the MLB Network called "The Next Knuckler". So four years ago I got back into baseball and went to spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks, that was fun. Then after that I got into business and said I was just going to do media, TV, Radio. I have my own podcast out of Los Angeles, then I have my own LSU shows in the fall. I have one in Shreveport. I do one in Baton Rouge. I do segments all over the Country. I've done Finebaum four or five times during football season. I just freelance a ton, I do it for fun. I have also started a consulting company. So that's what I do now.
Q - Is there anything that you want to tell the LSU fans?
Josh - I love LSU and follow them like crazy. I have twin sons who are going to be freshman at Evangel where I went to high school. They play football. One is a quarterback the other is a receiver and they are really good, so maybe one day they will play together at LSU like my brother and I did. I love the culture, I love the season that we had last year. It's fun to watch I'm glad LSU went with that passing game because it's just so much fun to watch. I wish they would have done that 20 years ago.