Friday, January 20, 2006

It's Time to Shake Your Booty

And you thought football season was over. Ha! USC is two weeks removed from its loss in the Rose Bowl, but the Trojans were back on the field Thursday for offseason conditioning drills. There is much work to be done after the exodus of five draft-eligible juniors, and the Trojans are searching for a quarterback to replace Matt Leinart. The candidates are Mark Sanchez and John David Booty, left, who is an interesting story. His father, Johnny Booty, is an evangelical minister who operates Our Home Fellowship, a network of home churches designed to bring families together. The L.A. Times did an extensive piece on the Bootys and we have a copy of it in the comments section below this post.


dawizofodds said...

June 23, 2003

Praying for Keeps
* Religion plays a central role in the Booty home, and it helped deliver a top quarterback prospect to USC

Gary Klein
Times Staff Writer

SHREVEPORT, La. -- Families that pray together stay together. Johnny Booty, evangelical minister, patriarch of one of Louisiana's leading football families and father of USC-bound quarterback John David Booty, believes that with all his soul.

The Bootys practice what Johnny preaches not only here in their well-appointed home but also with neighbors and a growing number of Web-linked families across the country that huddle weekly for home-based Bible study as part of Johnny's fledgling ministry.

Sometimes, though, even the most spiritually bound extended families splinter.

The Bootys confronted that reality in April when Johnny was fired as quarterback coach and head of school at tight-knit Evangel Christian Academy, where the Bootys helped build a nationally known high school football program from scratch.

John David, regarded as perhaps the nation's top high school player in the class of 2004, announced five days later that he was forgoing his senior year and enrolling at USC in the fall. It is a move thought to be unprecedented in major college football -- and one that might beget a new trend.

Johnny believes he was fired because his Bible study groups and ministerial Web site threatened the school chancellor's influence. John David, who is expected to immediately challenge for playing time at USC, said the firing all but forced his hand.

"I talk to my brothers and they say their senior year was the greatest year of their life," he said. "I'm kind of upset that I don't get to experience that, but I have to move on."

One thing seems clear: In a state where football borders on religion, religion helped deliver John David to USC a year ahead of schedule.


Johnny Booty can trace his family name to the 1700s and French relatives who worked on boats that made their way up and down the Mississippi River.

"It means a treasure that is taken in battle," he said while steering a black SUV past the Independence Bowl toward downtown Shreveport.

Fortune hunters still make their way to this city, drawn by Vegas-style hotels and riverboat casinos that began lining the historic Red River district near downtown in the mid-1990s.

Shreveport's athletic heritage is as rich as any city's in a state that bills itself as the Sportsman's Paradise. Pro football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw and longtime NFL quarterback Joe Ferguson immediately preceded Johnny Booty as all-state quarterbacks at Shreveport's Woodlawn High. Basketball Hall of Famer Robert Parish, former major league baseball All-Star Albert Belle and golfer Hal Sutton also hail from this city of about 200,000 in the northwest corner of the state, about 280 miles from New Orleans and within 30 of the Texas and Arkansas borders.

Evangel Christian, run by Shreveport's First Assembly of God Church, began etching itself into Louisiana lore not long after senior pastor Denny Duron asked Johnny to leave another Shreveport church and help him open the high school and athletic program in 1989.

Duron, who also is Evangel Christian's chancellor, was quarterback at Louisiana Tech when it won the NCAA Division II title in 1973 and had started Johnny on a spiritual path in college. Johnny played freshman football at Arkansas in 1972 and for the varsity at Mississippi State in 1974-75. Under the duo's stewardship, pass-crazy Evangel Christian won its first state championship in 1993 and seven more since, the last three in the largest division.

The high school campus of the K-12 school of about 600 students is located less than a mile from the Bootys' modern home. Johnny tutored an all-state quarterback at Evangel Christian in each of the last 11 years, including oldest son Josh, who played at Louisiana State; Brock Berlin, who is expected to start at Miami; and Brent Rawls, who is at Oklahoma.

"Johnny has one of those real soothing personalities.... I think that's one reason Evangel quarterbacks have been so good," said Pat Tilley, a former NFL receiver who coached at Evangel Christian last season. "The way he is as a minister translates to the football field."

As a highlight video rolls on the Bootys' small kitchen television, Johnny dissects John David's skills. The quarterback on the screen drops back and checks off two receivers before zipping a 45-yard pinpoint pass to a third in the corner of the end zone. He is poised beyond his years, his footwork impeccable.

"There is a grace [about Evangel quarterbacks], and we work on that day and night," Johnny said. "You want to be efficient and fluid. If we stop the tape, there shouldn't be any movement in the frame that doesn't belong."


The den in the Booty home provides a detailed history of the achievements of Louisiana's best quarterback family not named Manning.

Jerseys from the Florida Marlins, Cleveland Browns, LSU and Evangel Christian hang on the walls alongside framed photographs and newspaper stories that document the exploits of Johnny and Sonya Booty's four sons.

Josh, 28, signed with the Marlins out of high school in 1994 for a then-record $1.6-million bonus. He played in 13 major league games in three seasons before returning to play football at LSU in 1999 and 2000. He was selected All-Southeastern Conference in his final season, was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks and is now the third quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.

Abram, 25, still holds national high school marks for career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He was chosen to the SEC all-freshman team as a receiver at LSU and is now married and works in the insurance business in Shreveport.

John David, 18, the tallest of the brothers at 6 feet 3 1/2, passed for more than 8,000 yards the last two seasons as Evangel Christian won state division 5-A titles.

Jake, 14, will be in eighth grade in the fall and is considered a star of the future. He recently transferred to Calvary Academy, another private school in Shreveport.

Johnny and Sonya, Shreveport natives and sweethearts since seventh grade, said they never pushed their sons into sports, the boys just gravitated that way. But if the Bootys did not push, they assisted their boys athletically by holding them back in school.

Until the 1997-98 school year, junior high students in Louisiana routinely repeated grades they passed or failed without losing any high school eligibility. A few schools, Evangel Christian among them, had specific programs for students who opted to repeat the eighth grade.

Josh and Abram, along with more than half a dozen classmates, completed the eighth grade, then spent a year in the school-sponsored "8-plus" program before starting high school. John David repeated the fifth grade with several players who will be seniors next fall, including major-college prospects Jacob Hester and Chris Bowers.

John David took his first snap for the Eagles' varsity in the seventh grade because LHSAA rules allow junior high students to compete for K-12 schools.

"I was prepared for it and I loved it," John David said of being held back. "The extra year to mature can be huge."


One of Johnny Booty's favorite books is "My Glorious Brothers," Howard Fast's 1948 novel about the Maccabean revolt against the Greek empire.

That book's title aptly describes the relationships between the Booty boys. Ask Johnny, 49, what about his sons makes him most proud and he is quick to answer, "Their heart. They love each other. They genuinely adore each other."

Over lunch at a restaurant, Abram's eyes tear as he recalls searching out Josh after making the reception that gave his big brother the national high school record for career passing yards. He chokes up again describing a poem he wrote thanking Josh for his leadership.

"What's unique about my family is my parents," said Abram, who has a 1-year-old son named General. "... The love my dad passed on to us, we take that and love our brothers as much as he loves us."

Josh, in town from Cleveland on a late April weekend to play in a celebrity pro-am golf tournament, marveled at his parents' patience. "I've never heard them say one demeaning word to each other," he said while watching TV in the family's den.

The Bootys, however, have heard plenty of rude remarks in Shreveport and other cities throughout the Bayou state. Evangel Christian's rise to prominence, and the Bootys' successes on the football field, came at the expense of competitors that lost players to the school or were soundly defeated by the Eagles.

"When Josh was in high school, we'd come home and have kids on our front porch with metal baseball bats," John David said. "... I think that brings us closer as a family knowing that a lot of the world doesn't like us, so we need to love each other."

John Shoptaugh is the offensive coordinator for nearby Huntington High, a public school that annually loses potential players to Evangel Christian. Last season, Huntington was 9-3 but lost twice to Evangel Christian, including a playoff defeat. But Shoptaugh does not begrudge the Bootys.

"They're just a competitive family," he said as he supervised a crowded physical education class. "Whether it's counting road signs on the way to the Superdome or whatever, they're going to try and win."


On April 11, the day Johnny was fired at Evangel Christian, Duron told the Times of Shreveport that the dismissal was because of "a ministry matter." He did not elaborate, and has not discussed the issue publicly with the media since. He did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.

But John David's decision to forgo his senior year and join an unsettled competition to replace Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer at USC had its roots in January. That was when Johnny, a pastor at First Assembly Church of God for 15 years, said Duron asked him to take a sabbatical as head of school.

"It never entered my mind that Denny was thinking about getting me out of coaching as well," Johnny said.

With no administrative duties at Evangel Christian, and a young grandson to spend time with, Johnny said he acted on a desire to slow down his religious activity and started a Bible study group.

"There has got to be a way where people can be themselves and take all the stained glass out of it," he said.

John David said he was looking forward to a fun and successful senior season at Evangel Christian, and perhaps a run at a mythical national title, when his family boarded a plane for Los Angeles in March to watch USC go through a few days of spring practice.

Unlike Josh, who initially reveled in the opportunity to play quarterback at LSU, John David sought distance from the expectations and the boisterous but fickle crowds at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. He was drawn to the California lifestyle, observed during a trip to an Orange County quarterback camp he attended as a ball boy in 2001. When Californian Kyle Wright, one of the top quarterbacks in the class of 2003, committed to Miami last fall, the Bootys decided to look seriously at USC.

John David, Johnny and Josh observed and dissected two Trojan workouts, then John David and his father met with USC Coach Pete Carroll.

"[John David] didn't even look at me -- he just said, 'I want to come to USC,' " Johnny recalled. "Coach Carroll jumped straight out of his chair."

NCAA rules prohibit USC coaches from commenting about John David until he enrolls in school, but the plan was this: John David would play his senior season, graduate in January and enroll at USC next spring. However, the quarterback could already envision himself taking snaps at USC this fall.

"We were coming back on the plane, and I was thinking, 'I want to be there right now,' " he said.

Those thoughts coalesced after the family returned to Shreveport and Duron told Johnny he could no longer coach. Other assistants threatened to resign. Players discussed bolting for other schools.

"I told him, 'Dad, I don't know if I want to be up there [at Evangel],' " John David recalled. "And he's like, 'Well buddy, let's see. Let's talk with God and pray about it and he'll lead us in the right direction.' "

Johnny said Duron reconsidered his dismissal as quarterback coach two weeks later, and Evangel set about preparing for a season that will include a game against Concord De La Salle, winner of a national-record 138 consecutive games. But two weeks after he was reinstated, Johnny said Duron fired him again.

"That's when it hit me," John David said. "I said, 'Dad, are we just being hard-headed? Maybe God is telling us, "You should be going. It's time." ' "

With John David's already having achieved a qualifying score on a scholastic assessment test, and needing to complete only one English credit to fulfill graduation requirements, the Bootys investigated the possibility of his taking the course this summer. They called Carroll for feedback. They checked with the NCAA clearinghouse to make sure John David would be eligible if he graduated a year ahead of schedule.

On April 16, John David announced he would enroll at USC in the fall.

Eight days later, he sat in his spacious second-story bedroom and looked at a wall papered with envelopes and recruiting letters bearing the logos of the nation's most powerful college football programs.

"I wouldn't recommend it," he said of leaving high school early. "I can understand if you're going to the major leagues or the NBA or something and getting all your money, but I'm just going to bust my butt in college and try to make the best of my experience."

At Evangel Christian, the future of the football program could be affected by challenges on the field and, possibly, in the courtroom.

In May 2001, football Coach Dennis Dunn was arrested after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old female student. Dunn denied the allegations and was placed on leave, and Johnny guided the Eagles to the state title. In May 2002, prosecutors dropped all charges against Dunn, citing insufficient evidence. But a civil lawsuit against Dunn and school officials, including Johnny, is pending.

"It has the potential to implode," Huntington's Shoptaugh said. "You could not hurt the Evangel program from the outside. The only way was from the inside. Is this it? Time will tell."


Under the supervision of Evangel Christian's strength coach, John David is taking supplements for the first time and working out in a rigorous weightlifting and running program that has helped him increase his weight to a lean 205 pounds.

He will complete his summer English class this week, travel to Los Angeles next week and report to USC with the rest of the team Aug. 5. The Trojans open the season Aug. 30 at Auburn.

John David is looking forward to attending college, "where your name starts all over again.... I don't have to be the center of attention. I don't want that."

Johnny is no longer at Evangel Christian but is likely to continue playing a prominent role in Louisiana high school football. On May 19, he was named to the athletic committee at Calvary Academy, Jake's new school, and will coach quarterbacks and running backs when Calvary Academy begins fielding a high school team in 2004.

The Bootys plan to visit John David as often as their schedule allows. Josh, who is to be married July 11, has purchased an off-season home in Hermosa Beach, which will also give the family a place to stay.

Sonya Booty is savoring the days before John David, the son she says she is closest to, leaves for Los Angeles.

"I really, truly think he is ready for this," she said. "He can handle it, but as a mother, I hate to see it happen earlier than it has to."

Sonya, however, said she has no doubts that USC is the right place for John David. She talks about the timing of the trip to spring practice in March, the subsequent upheaval upon the family's return and the opportunity that now awaits her son.

"I think it was ordained," she said.

Jake said...

The USC made a very outstanding game last 2008 Rose Bowl. One of the key players who led the team to sweep victory is quarterback John David Booty.

From a John David Booty website.