Jessie “Da Body” Booker is regarded as one of the top running backs returning to the parish this season.
Heck, one could argue he's one of the top running backs in the state. Booker's coach will make that argument for him, but in reality, the numbers say it all.
A career mark of 2,992 rushing yards to go along with 45 touchdowns certainly makes the case for him. But with a brand new head coach in Maurice Pollard leading the Wossman Wildcats this fall, there’s reason to believe Booker could be even better in 2020. And that all centers around one word: motivation.
“I’ve got a point to prove,” Booker said.
The 6’1”, 219-pound running back had somewhat of a wakeup call recently. His former teammate, Jacoby Collins, got an opportunity to extend his football career with Tyler Junior College.
“He sees someone around him who that’s attained a goal, and in reality, his name was always bigger than some of those other guys who got to go to Tyler,” Pollard said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. Honestly, I think he’s probably the best tailback in the state. One of the best in the country. But we’re trying to get him to establish more of a vision and dream for himself.”
So far that’s exactly what Booker has done. Seeing a player like Collins, who Booker calls a brother, get an opportunity to play at the next level has motivated him this offseason. And if you’re worried about any distractions that might prevent Booker from staying focused, well those are limited too.
“The (college) coaches I talk to have to talk to my coaches,” Booker said. “I told them to get in touch with my coaches, because I don’t have a phone. I’m just focusing on my grades right now.”
What Booker brings to the table as a running back for Wossman is versatility. Booker can run over defenders should he choose, and he likes to make bigger defenders miss in open space. For Booker, though, open-field moves are never a pre-snap decision. He just feels it.
“It just happens,” Booker said. “If you’re big and slow, I’m going to juke you. If you’re smaller, I’ll stiff arm you or run you over. It all just depends.”
Pollard said he’s been around a lot of great backs in his coaching days, and he still doesn’t believe Booker understands how talented he truly is.
“He runs in his hips well, and I don’t think he even understands that,” Pollard said. “He’s able to be at a level to still have his maximum strength at varied levels, even if he’s tall or short when he runs. First contact never seems to deter him from falling forward. He just has natural ability. We’re working on his mind-set, and understanding what he has.”
Booker said working out during the pandemic has been troublesome for some of his teammates. Everyone has different situations at home, with certain players living with elderly people.
But the mission remains the same. After a five-win season, Wossman players are putting in the work to bounce back and be in contention for a hard-fought District 2-3A title. And the goal doesn’t stop there.
“We’re working together,” Booker said. “The ‘ship is still the main goal.”
And for Booker, he hopes to attain another opportunity to play at the next level, like his “brother” did a year ago.
“This is my way out,” Booker said. “This is all I have.”