September 17, 2004

Boothe Prepares for Final Season

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Listed at an imposing 6-5, 300 pounds, senior right tackle Kevin Boothe would seem to be the prototypical offensive lineman. With a striking ability to crush opposing tackles into oblivion and almost single-handedly mold offensive rushing plays, he would seem like the kind of guy who would be useful backup in a fight.

Furthermore, a quick glance at the NFL scouting reports would uncover the fact that Boothe is ranked as one of the top 25 offensive linemen in the country.

A casual observer may be thinking, “Meathead, right? All brawn and no brains?” Wrong. Not only is Boothe one of the most dominating athletes Cornell football has ever encountered, he is also one of the most eloquent and humble people the world has ever seen.

Always quick to deflect praise onto teammates and never willing to take sole credit for anything, Boothe is a consummate gentleman and an example to his peers. A future graduate of the School of Hotel Administration, Boothe is the ideal student athlete — not to mention a vital piece in the Red’s strategy to bring home an Ivy League title.

“Boothe is as good of a lineman as I have seen at any level,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “He could play anywhere he wants to.”

Despite representing a line which ranked last in the Ivy League in opponent’s sacks last season (29 sacks given up for 207 negative yards), Boothe was named first team All-Ivy in 2003 and was a pre-season first team All-Ivy pick this year.

Again at the helm of an offensive line consisting of four returning seniors and significantly more experience, Boothe is confident that 2004 will be the complete reverse of last season’s 1-9 disaster.

“The guys who have been here realize 1-9 is 1-9 — and no one wants to feel that way again,” Boothe said. “The pressure is on us to succeed only because we have such high expectations of ourselves.”

The offensive line has been working on reading defensive tendencies far in advance — a technique Boothe expects will limit the penetration opposing blitzers can manage during the course of a game.

“We have been practicing taking the hits off [quarterback] D.J. [Busch],” Boothe said. “It’s imperative for us to protect him.”

Boothe and the rest of the offense have spent the summer adjusting to first-year coach Knowles’ new playbook and schemes. After bottoming out the Ivy League in both passing and rushing offense last year, Boothe and his teammates recognize that in spite of a brand new system, there is only room for improvement.

“Knowles instills a hard-work attitude in each player,” Boothe said. “He wants us to win on every play. The most important part of our job is executing those plays.”

Boothe’s distinguished career on the field began at a small private high school in Plantation, Fla., where his family moved after Boothe was born in Queens, N.Y. He played on both sides of the ball at Pine Crest School, earning second-team all-state honors as a senior in perhaps the most competitive high school football state in the nation.

Boothe acknowledges his older brother Charles — who played football for East Carolina University in the early 1990’s — as an inspiration to play. He even wears number 77, Charles’ old jersey number.

“I played against some studs in high school,” Boothe said. “Every team had someone going somewhere — I remember when we played against [Washington Redskins free safety] Sean Taylor. The competition in Florida was great preparation for college.”

Boothe’s adjustment to college life at Cornell included not only a stark meteorological change — the sunny skies of Florida versus the unforgiving winters of Ithaca — but also a reinvention of how he approached football. Faster and stronger players, complex new coaching strategies and the pressures of a Division I program all threatened Boothe’s continued success in the game.

Yet, like opposing defenses blitzing on first down, Boothe subdued these challenges with confidence and authority.

“I definitely feel the most comfortable and at home here [at Cornell],” Boothe said. “Football is much more a combination of mental and physical aspects at the college level. It’s very intricate and smart, and the game is constantly testing you.”

Thus far, Boothe has passed such tests with ease. He has been a starter on the offensive line since his sophomore year — a year in which he garnered second team All-Ivy honors. In 2002, the Red accumulated 1,251 rushing yards, the most of any Cornell team since 1996. Last year, Boothe’s pass protection skills led quarterbacks Mick Razzano and Busch to a combined 2,167 passing yards.

Now, with the twilight of an illustrious collegiate career coming into view, Boothe is preparing for the next stage in his life. A stage that, he hopes, will include football.

“I can’t really picture myself in a regular job,” Boothe said. “I want to take this game as far as I can.”

He may just get his wish in the 2005 NFL Draft. Despite playing with two partially broken hands during all of last season, the senior still garnered enough attention from NFL scouts to be ranked among the top offensive tackle prospects in Division I.

With the size and quickness of a pro lineman, a good season this year could cement Boothe’s position as a mid-rounds pick.

Yet, before the ink dries on a multi-million dollar signing bonus, Boothe wants to insure that his senior season is the most memorable of all.

“Every time you play, you want to play like it will be your last time on the field,” Boothe said. “This year, that phrase has new meaning. This season is about bringing things to a new level.”

For Boothe, that level will be providing Busch and the Red’s trio of running backs (Marcus Blanks, Andre Hardaway and Joshua Johnston) with all the time and space they need to maneuver. And if the scrimmage against Ithaca College on Sept. 4 is any indication — the trio combined for 81 yards and two touchdowns — Boothe and his fellow linemen seem to be settling into their roles effectively already.

Boothe will see his first action of the 2004 season at Bucknell tomorrow when the Red travels to Lewisburg, Pa., for its season-opener.

Last year, the Red had a huge offensive game against the Bison, accumulating 375 total yards on 72 plays.

Johnston and Blanks accounted for 125 yards on the ground for the Red, which is looking to establish the run early again tomorrow.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor